The NAIA Women's Basketball Tournament begins Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, teams in town for the tournament visited with local schools in the Magic City, as well as practiced, and enjoyed a dinner and banquet at MetraPark.
Bitterroot Elementary had the opportunity to hang out with players from Loyola University New Orleans. The Loyola Wolf Pack say they visited Bitterroot last year while in Billings for the 2018 NAIA tournament, and they liked it so much, that they wanted to visit with the students again.
The players and students did a relay race and played Knock Out. However, the five core values are what Kellie Kennedy, Loyola's head coach, wanted her team to use to connect with Bitterroot students. Kennedy explained, "Respect, Responsibility, Sportsmanship, Servant Leadership, and Integrity. I've had a lot of experience teaching those 18 to 22 year olds and now I'm getting experience to teach my own child, and she's 7 now. So, with these kids, I understand exactly what they're going through, what is important for them to learn and understand. And those core values, they mesh so well together in every aspect of what we do."
The keynote speaker for the NAIA banquet Wednesday evening was college basketball ESPN analyst, Mark Adams. The former Rocky Mountain Men's Basketball coach said being the keynote speaker for the women's tournament was a huge honor.
Adams coached for several years in the 1980s, as the men's head coach at RMC. KULR-8 caught up with him at Rocky where he was watching the women's team practice. He said his speech to the athletes and coaches, Wednesday night, is about celebrating what each team has accomplished.
"These are 32 of the best teams in America that get an opportunity to win a national championship right here in Billings, Montana," Adams explained. "So, we are going to celebrate our families together, we're going to celebrate the game together, our teammates together, our coaches and I've got a couple of surprises tonight for the ladies as well, so I'm really excited about it."
The banquet also known as the NAIA Student-Athlete Experience had games and food for players and coaches. Christopher Minner, the head coach for Our Lady of the Lake University, said Billings and MetraPark have given his team the best experience when it comes to the tournament. Minner said, "This is my 8th year coming to a national tournament, we've been in three different spots and this is the best one. Everywhere we've gone, they've kind of liked us being there, but they love us being here in Billings. Everyone is so nice, the restaurants are so nice. Everybody, you can tell, they want us to be here, they are excited about us being here. We have more fans in the stands than any other place we've been. They are nice to us when we go to restaurants and they don't care about the big groups."
The tournament kicks off bright and early Wednesday morning at 8:30 between Bethel College from Tennessee and Lindsey Wilson of Kentucky.