OAKLAND CITY - All eight participating basketball teams in the Christian College National Invitational Tournament, and several members of the Gibson County community gathered in Oakland City University's Bower-Suhrheinrich student center Wednesday night to kick off the 2017 CCNIT with a dinner and banquet.
Gibson County Executive of the Chamber of Commerce James Stephens began the night welcoming all eight teams, their players and coaches, ranging from schools in Texas to North Carolina, including The Mighty Oaks.
Oakland City University President, Ray Barber, gave the blessing for a meal enjoyed by over 200, before head coach Mike Sandifar introduced the keynote speaker.
Many know Kent Benson for his heroic efforts in lifting the Indiana University Men's basketball team to the last NCAA undefeated season and national championship in 1976, but few know his true driving force in life like Sandifar.
From his days working at the newspaper in Richmond, IN, Sandifar met Benson during his playing days at New Castle High School. Benson lives his life for Jesus Christ as a devout Christian, and Sandifar knew he would relay a message similar to the traditions and expectations Oakland City has been built upon as a Christian University.
Benson spoke on trying to live a life of excellence, by being the best you can be, all while living your life for Christ.
All eight head coaches got up and spoke at the conclusion of the banquet about their teams, and tournament action will kick off with four games to be played today at the Johnson Center in Oakland City.
Southwestern Adventist will face Wilberforce at 1 p.m., followed by Rhema Bible College and Wright State Lake at 3 p.m. Hiwassee will play Carolina Christian at 5 p.m., with Oakland City and Johnson University will cap the day with a game at 7 p.m.
Check back in Friday's newspaper, and online for a full report on Benson's message.