2018-03-29 / Front Page

Houghton Lake grad among those celebrating Bulldog title


NATIONAL CHAMPS! Houghton Lake’s Tom Press, head manager of the Ferris State Univer­sity men’s basketball team, poses with the NCAA Division II National Championship trophy following the Bulldogs’ victory Saturday. The Bulldogs won the school’s first national title when they beat South Da­kota’s Northern State 71-69 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, SD. (Courtesy photo) NATIONAL CHAMPS! Houghton Lake’s Tom Press, head manager of the Ferris State Univer­sity men’s basketball team, poses with the NCAA Division II National Championship trophy following the Bulldogs’ victory Saturday. The Bulldogs won the school’s first national title when they beat South Da­kota’s Northern State 71-69 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, SD. (Courtesy photo) While most basketball fans had their focus on the NCAA Men’s Division I March Madness last weekend, many in Michigan were focused on another tour­nament – the Division II tournament.

The reason: Ferris State University.

The Bulldogs brought home the school’s first National Championship when they beat South Dakota’s Northern State 71-69 Saturday in Sioux Falls, SD. Among those celebrating the historic event was Houghton Lake’s Tom Press, head manager of the Bulldogs basketball team.


NUMBER ONE Tom Press (center) celebrates Ferris State University’s men’s basketball NCAA Division II National Cham­pionship with his family following the Bulldogs’ win Saturday. Making the trip to South Dakota to watch the final were (left to right) Tom’s brothers, Rick and Stephen, his mom, Lorri and dad, Steve. “I’m so proud of them,” Steve Press said of the Bulldogs. (Courtesy photo) NUMBER ONE Tom Press (center) celebrates Ferris State University’s men’s basketball NCAA Division II National Cham­pionship with his family following the Bulldogs’ win Saturday. Making the trip to South Dakota to watch the final were (left to right) Tom’s brothers, Rick and Stephen, his mom, Lorri and dad, Steve. “I’m so proud of them,” Steve Press said of the Bulldogs. (Courtesy photo) “It was honestly incredible,” he said. “It was the best day of my life.”

Press, 20, said Ferris Coach Andy Bronkema told the team throughout the year to “dream about the confetti” that would fall if the Bulldogs won a national title.

With the game close throughout, Press, who sits at the end of the bench, said he tried to keep cool and stay fo­cused in the hopes of releasing “all my energy and going crazy” when the Bull­dogs won.

He got his chance, as did his parents, Steve and Lorri Press, who attended the game with their two other sons, Stephen and Rick (who will graduate in May with a degree in survey engineering from Fer­ris), and friend Stoney Masse.

While Steve Press said the trip to Sioux Falls “was undoubtedly the trip from hell” because of a snowstorm they hit along the route, it was worth it.

He said the family drove their mo­torhome in the “absolute worse driving conditions” he’s ever been in to get to the game and watch Tom and the Bulldogs win the title.

Steve Press said the Ferris fans were outnumbered with a majority of the 3,538 fans in the Sanford Pentagon be­ing Northern State fans. “It was so intimidating,” he said. “I can only imagine what the players were feeling.”

After trailing 9-2 early, the Bulldogs took a 39-37 lead at the half. The second half was back-and-forth with Ferris scor­ing the final five points of the game and surviving a last-second 3-point shot to take the two-point win.

“I’m so proud of them,” Steve Press said of the Bulldogs.

Tom Press said having his family at the game was “amazing. It meant the world to me.”

He said he had told himself he wasn’t going to cry, but “started crying when I hugged my dad.”

“It was the most amazing experience of my life and I’m glad my family was there for me,” he said.

The Bulldogs finished 38-1 overall this season and are 90-16 since Press be­came a manager.

Press said he already has champion­ship rings from his first two seasons as manager from conference champion­ships, but this one will be special.

“This one definitely is going to be my favorite,” he said. “It’s going to be the big one.”

As a student assistant, Press travels with the team, helps with drills and plays on the scout team at times.

Basically, Press said he does “what­ever the coach needs me to do.”

A 2015 Houghton Lake High School graduate, Press said he decided on at­tending Ferris early on and wanted to try to play basketball for the Bulldogs.

He said he contacted the coach about trying out for the team and was told there would not be an opportunity to try out, but there were opportunities for extra staff members.

“The guys really accepted me,” Press said, noting he now lives with three members of the team.

“It’s been the best part about Ferris,” he said. “It’s really been amazing.”

“Ultimately, I would love to coach someday,” Press said, noting that as a kid his dream was to first play in the NBA and then coach in the league.

While Press won’t be able to real­ize the dream of playing in the NBA, he said he does picture himself coaching someday.

“I’ve learned an insane amount from the coaches,” he said of his time at Fer­ris.

Since returning to Ferris with the Na­tional Championship, the Bulldogs have had a warm welcome.

“We’re treated like celebrities,” he said, noting there are signs throughout the campus and there were pep rallies and police escorts for the team.

While the Bulldogs are losing four seniors, including three starters, Press is optimistic about next season.

“I think we’ll have another great year,” he said.

And, as far as the NCAA Division I Men’s Tournament, Press picked two of the teams that are still playing – Univer­sity of Michigan and Kansas.

“It would be awesome to see U of M win in the same year,” he said.

When asked if he had anything he would want to tell younger basketball players and fans of the sport, Press said his response goes back to his initial cor­respondence with the Ferris coaches. He said he was upset when he asked to try out and was told he could be a manager, not a player. Instead of letting his disap­pointment turn him away from the pro­gram, Press said he met with the coaches and learned there was a lot to being a manager.

“I love what I do and I love working with my best friends. I love being around basketball,” he said. “I know it sounds cliche, but anything is possible. I never would have pictured myself being a Na­tional Champion, but here I am.”

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