A new chapter to a longstanding Taylor University men’s basketball tradition unfolds Friday night in Odle Arena.
Count sophomore guard Kyle Stidom among the many who can’t wait.
With a standing-room-only crowd of 2,000 expected to be shoehorned into the Trojans’ 1,500-seat facility, Stidom and his teammates compete against Indiana Dabney University in pin-drop silence until Taylor scores its 10th point.
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Referred to as Silent Night, this Christmas-themed event born in the late-1980s blends both ends of the audible spectrum. Complete silence sans a dribbling basketball and squealing high-tops in time capped off with ear-splitting euphoria throughout the remainder of the game.
This qualifies as a first for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Stidom, who while at Greenwood Christian Academy produced totals of 2,059 points and 1,040 rebounds.
He plans to soak up every delicious moment, perhaps even scoring the Trojans’ 10th point himself.
This wouldn’t be a stretch considering Stidom leads Taylor in scoring (17.0 ppg) and free-throw percentage (.830). He also ranks in the top three in a number of other statistical categories, including field goals made (44), rebounds (5.5), assists (1.8) and steals (1.0).
“Kyle has been a pleasant addition to the program this season. He is arguably our hardest worker and has quickly bought into our system and expectations,” said first-year Taylor coach Josh Andrews, whose squad is off to a 5-3 start.
“Kyle has an explosive skill set that allows him to attack the rim, create offense and rebound. With continued work, he has the ability to become a premier guard at our level.”
Stidom spent his first year of college at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Panthers, like Taylor, compete as an NAIA Division II men’s basketball program. Stidom averaged 3.4 points as a freshman.
In some respects it was the most difficult year of Stidom’s young life. Though he made many friends at Davenport, being 250 miles from those closest to him over time took a toll.
Stidom toured the Taylor campus last April 3 and immediately fell in love with his surroundings. Best of all, the Upland campus is about a 90-minute drive from home.
“Being closer is part of me being happier in general. Last year I couldn’t really find my niche, and I come here and get the opportunity to do what I did in high school, which is create for myself and my teammates,” Stidom said.
“Part of playing college sports is being surrounded by those closest to you. Last year I was five hours away from home. In my personal life I wasn’t as happy as I let on. It was just a different culture than what I’m used to.”
Motivational forces weren’t in short supply as Stidom trained over the summer.
Though he factored into all 34 of Davenport’s games during the 2012-13 season and even made two starts, Stidom’s role wasn’t what he had envisioned. The 14.5 minutes he averaged ranked 10th among the Panthers’ 12 roster players.
“Basketball-wise, I got to go against two All-Americans every day in practice in (6-5 forward) Dominez Burnett and (6-3 forward) JaVontae Ford, and that really helped my development for this season. But after last year I kind of took it personal. I worked as hard over the summer to prove to everyone that I could do it at this level,” Stidom said.
“All the coaches here, especially my head coach, have instilled confidence in me. I had lost some of that last year.”
With Stidom’s GCA confidence having returned to Indiana soil, he poured in a career-high 31 points to lead Taylor to a 101-82 victory over Ohio State-Newark on Nov. 23. The sophomore produced 10-of-12 shooting both from the field and the free-throw stripe.
An announced crowd of 215 filed in to Odle Arena to witness the victory. In excess of nine times that will pack the stands and aisles on Friday.
It’s home-court advantage at its very loudest. And quietest.
Stidom, whose freshman and sophomore basketball seasons couldn’t have been drawn up any more differently, will be right in the thick of things, loving every moment of it.
CHANGE OF SCENERY
Greenwood Christian Academy graduate Kyle Stidom is having himself quite the sophomore season for Taylor University’s men’s basketball program. Here are the 6-3 guard’s averages and highs through the Trojans’ first eight games:
Minutes — Averages 29.5, played 35 against Grace (Nov. 26)
Points — Averages 17.0, scored 31 against Ohio State-Newark (Nov. 23)
Rebounds — Averages 5.5, had 11 against Brescia (Nov. 19)
Assists — Averages 1.8, had four against Ohio State-Newark
Steals — Averages 1.0, had two on two occasions