Most of the players from Concordia University's NAIA men's basketball team received their national championship rings earlier this week during a ceremony at the school, but there was one notable player missing.
Cameron Gliddon was the named the NAIA national tournament MVP after the Eagles won the second national crown in school history by winning five consecutive games in six days, culminating with a 72-69 victory over Oklahoma Baptist in the championship game last March.
Gliddon, though, was half a world away in his home country of Australia, where he just began is professional basketball career in the National Basketball League, which includes teams from Australia and New Zealand. Gliddon, who plays for the Cairns Taipans, made his professional debut earlier this week, scoring nine points to go with four rebounds, two assists and two steals in the Taipans' 84-72 victory over the Townsville Crocs.
"I knew I'd be bringing the ball up a bit if [regular point guard] Jamar [Wilson] was denied and I felt good, surprisingly good, considering it was my first game in the NBL," Gliddon told The Cairns Post. "I got more comfortable in that second and third quarter and hit a three there and really enjoyed it."
Gliddon had to get used to a few things, like playing in front of a bigger crowd, considering CU Arena's capacity is 2,400, as well as differences in the game itself.
"It's a different style of game and, crowd-wise, I came from a small school, so to have nearly 5,000 people cheering and agreeing with you on calls is pretty cool," he said.
Gliddon, who left Concordia as the school's all-time leading three-point shooter, isn't the only former Eagle who missed the ring ceremony because he's playing professionally overseas.
Tommy Granado, who was the team's third leading scorer last season (12.5 ppg) and second leading rebounder (6.7 rpg) is playing for the Gunma Crane Thunders in a professional league in Japan.
Concordia coach Ken Ammann and his team will begin defense of their national title on Nov. 2, but the experience of last season will not be forgotten.
"Our entire coaching staff and team maintained great focus and put forth a great effort to get this done together," Ammann said after winning the title. "Winning [last season] was the most rewarding it has been in a long time. Our seniors were a special group and they did a great job trusting themselves in the tournament. My coaching staff was outstanding in the tournament and all year long."
Concordia's women's volleyball team appears to be on a mission after losing in the NAIA national championship match last season. The Eagles had won a record 36 consecutive matches before losing in the title match to the University of Texas-Brownsville in four games.
Concordia hasn't lost since.
The Eagles, currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, are 21-0 this season, including 7-0 in the Golden State Athletic Conference. In fact, Coach Dan Fisher's Eagles have lost only five sets all season, sweeping their opponents in three straight sets in 17 of their 21 matches.
Concordia has several wins over top-10 ranked schools this season, including Westmont, The Master's and Biola from the GSAC. And coming up soon – Oct. 25 – the Eagles get a rematch against defending national champ and current No. 1 Texas-Brownsville. That match will be in Concordia's home gym.
Another Concordia team with national championship aspirations is the men's soccer team, which is 11-1-1, including 5-0 in the GSAC, and ranked No. 4 in the nation.
The Eagles still have not lost to an NAIA school this season, their only loss coming to NCAA Division II team Cal Poly Pomona, 3-2.
Christian Ramirez and William Prado have been the Eagles' top two scorers, Ramirez totaling 32 points (14 goals, four assists) and Prado 29 points (10 goals, nine assists).
Concordia's women's soccer team (No. 19) and men's water polo team (No. 20) are currently ranked nationally in their respective sports.