Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CEDARVILLE — If you’ve been wondering what Branden Maughmer has been up to, his to do list has only had one item on it for quite some time: get better.
Maughmer, a Chillicothe High School grad and a freshman at Cedarville University, signed with the Yellow Jackets in November 2017. His arrival on campus made an immediate splash.
After Cedarville started the year with five losses in its first seven games, the Yellow Jackets found their stroke and, with it, a bonafide scoring option in Maughmer.
In 33 games, Maughmer averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists. He shot 50.9 percent from the floor and 41.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc. His 1,031 minutes played led Cedarville’s entire roster.
“I had a lot of success this year coming in as a freshman and not expecting to play much,” Maughmer said. “I ended up starting all 33 games. I was a second-team all-conference selection in the [Great Midwest Athletic Conference] and also made the all-conference team at the NCCAA National Tournament.”
Those individual accolades are nice.
But the ultimate prize was an NCCAA National Championship — the Jackets claimed that crown with a 64-58 win over Roberts Wesleyan on March 16 in Winona Lake, Ind., a game they once trailed in by 19.
“The atmosphere of the National Championship game was just different,” Maughmer said. “Like we knew it was the same game but you could tell through the way the [momentum] went, somebody always had it. When the clock is ticking down, knowing you’re about to win a National Tournament … it’s a surreal feeling.”
After its win over Roberts Wesleyan, Cedarville finished the season at 21-12 overall.
“From 2-5 to 21-12. Our team success came with great leadership from both our juniors and seniors on the team,” Maughmer said. “We started out the season rough and turned it around after beating Findlay [on Dec.1], who was ranked ninth in the country at the time.”
And, of course, the Yellow Jackets’ success wouldn’t have been possible without a great coaching staff … which is especially true when its comes to head coach Pat Estepp.
“Our coaching staff is great. Sometimes, I feel like they’re my friends rather than my coaches,” Maughmer said. “That’s not because they’re easy on us. It’s just the relationships they’ve built with us are strong and we are all so comfortable. Coach Estepp has done an amazing job in trusting me and giving me all the confidence I needed coming in.”
Maughmer has always been an unselfish basketball player. That trait dates back to his middle school days. Now, he’s surrounded by teammates who share the same basketball philosophies.
“My teammates, I wouldn’t want any other guys by my side. The bond we have on, and especially off, the court is special,” Maughmer said. “Many opposing coaches and players have told us that we have the best chemistry they’ve seen in a long time and it’s because we’re all so selfless towards one another and we all want the other to succeed just as much, or even more, than we do individually. That’s every single person, not just five or six guys.”
With a year of experience under his belt at the collegiate level, Maughmer will know what to expect coming into his sophomore season. That bodes dangerous for opponents considering his performance this season with no experience whatsoever — at the NCAA level — to lean on.
Branden Maughmer, who can now call himself a National Champion, has a bright future ahead … as does Cedarville’s men’s basketball program.
And now, with a national title under their belts, the Yellow Jackets have expectations in place.
“Future plans for me? Well, that’s simple really. First and foremost, I want to get closer to Christ and, second, figure out a major for my sophomore campaign and get a degree. Finally, it’s just to continue to turn this program around with my teammates. We expect to have a winning season from here on out and we want to win the GMAC for the next three years while competing for a National Championship.”