BELTON, Texas- As the UMHB men’s basketball team warms up on the court, whether that be before a critical home game, or at halftime of an away contest, one thing stays the same. If you look on the back of the long-sleeved shirts the team wears, you will find the foundation of the program.
“Destruction comes; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.” Ezekiel 7:25.
One simple verse says a lot and means a lot to the Cru and head coach Clif Carroll.
To understand how the verse relates to the Cru, you first have to take a second to understand the context of the verse itself. In the entire passage of Ezekiel 7, God is speaking to the prophet Ezekiel about the coming destruction He will carry out on Israel, as a result of the nation turning away from Him. The Lord tells Ezekiel that in the day of destruction, the Isrealites then will cry out for mercy, but it will be too late.
For Carroll and his team, it is applied in a similar way. Facing an opponent, the Crusaders go all out, leaving everything on the court, never taking it easy. When an opponent walks into the Mayborn Campus Center, there is no mercy. Of course, the main idea behind the verse is to keep both himself and his program focused. Not on themselves, but on the Lord.
“We want to go up, we want to impose our will on our opponents,” said Carroll. “That’s kind of what we do.”
The presence of the verse in his program is nothing new for Carroll. When he was head coaching at Sul Ross State, he first applied it to his program, after hearing Tim Kennedy use it as a UFC fighter.
“That’s something I’ve been using since I was at Sul Ross,” said Carroll when asked about it early this week. “I stole it from a guy named Tim Kennedy, who was an army ranger and then fought UFC and all that stuff. That was kind of his mantra when he was fighting. I thought it was really cool. It really gives a great message to me. We want to spread the word of Christ and the best way for us to do that is to go and win. Like it or not, people listen to winners.”
People certainly do, whether it be a good message or a negative one. For the UMHB men’s basketball team they’ve done nothing but win, posting a 5-0 conference record heading into Saturday’s game at home versus Hardin-Simmons. As the Cru continues to pile up victories and add to the wins column, the attention on the Cru has slowly shifted from a local audience to a national following. That has allowed the foundation of faith evident in Carroll’s program to be revealed even more.
However, from last year in Alpine, coaching at Sul Ross, to this year in Belton, something has changed regarding the way the verse has revealed itself in the program. At a state school like Sul Ross, Carroll was barred from adding the “Ezekiel 7:25” to the back of the warmup shirts. However, at UMHB, it has been welcomed, even praised by the administration.
“Obviously at a state school like Sul Ross, I couldn’t put the ‘Ezekiel’ on it, but the school has actually ordered new shooting shirts that actually have the verse on there. That is something that our administration thought was pretty cool, so they wanted to go ahead and add the bible verse.”
Carroll added, “My transition from state school to Christian school, man, I couldn’t do that at a state school, but here, we embrace it.”
It has not only been embraced by the coaching staff and administration, but by the players themselves.
“It basically makes up the culture of our team,” said leading scorer Josiah Johnson when talking about the faith aspect of the program along with the verse. “Toughness and togetherness, while at the same time playing so hard that other teams will want to beg for mercy against us. We just try to represent God with our play and how we carry ourselves.”
Sophomore guard William Roberts added, “I feel like our relationship with God is very important because He is the head of our life and without Him we wouldn’t be here. I think Ezekiel 7:25 really speaks to what Coach teaches us everyday, which is togetherness and toughness, and it drives us to lengths that we can only go together as a team. The very beginning, “Destruction Cometh” just speaks for itself to whoever we play , it speaks volumes on what’s to come and when they try to seek peace there won’t be any. We’re here together and we’re going to stay here together to win championships.”
From his childhood and throughout his coaching career, Carroll’s life has been centered around church and faith.
“I grew up in the church,” recalls Carroll. “My grandfather was a deacon, my grandmother played the piano at church. It’s important to me that my sons, Waylon and Willie, grow up in a Christian atmosphere. You’re not going to find a better place than Mary-Hardin Baylor. Our mantra is that we are unapologetic in our faith. I can talk about it with my players and we pray before every practice, before every game. I never knew how much I missed praying with my players until I couldn’t do it anymore at a state school. I’ve grown stronger in my faith being here and everything we do goes for His glory, so hopefully we continue in spreading the word of Christ as we go through winning this championship.”
“We like it, the guys like it, it gets us fired up,” added Carroll. “We recite it everyday before a game and go out and try to wreak destruction on the ASC.”
UMHB battles Hardin-Simmons in Belton Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.