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Pioneers’ new athletic facility a big step for new program

On Friday, Campbellsville University Harrodsburg’s basketball team took a big step in the right direction for a young program trying to establish itself when it formally opened its new athletic facility with a home double header.

CUH men’s head coach Austin Sparrow said that the new facility is crucial for a program still trying to find its footing in the college basketball landscape.

“We have a brand new athletic facility with a gym that is going to be able to seat about 1,000 people. It’s somewhere that we can call home,” he said. “Dalton Christopher, our athletic director, and (associate vice president of university outreach) Wes Carter and numerous people have done an outstanding job of creating an environment and facility that we can use to take this program from a beginning program to an established program that should be competing for championships every year.”

The facility does more than just bolster the team already suited up for the Pioneers, Sparrow also hopes that it’ll help them in the ever important process of recruiting.

“Tonight is our first home opener and we’ll have three recruits here for game day. We hope they’ll have an awesome time,” Sparrow said. “In the future, we want to get our recruits to the campus and in here so they can see our legitimacy. I know there’s a lot of things that people question right now about our program. We realize that and we want to do the best we can to create a brand that is trustworthy, established and progressing.”

This is the third year the CUH men’s program has been around, and the first year coach Sparrow is on the sidelines. He said that in years past, the team has had to rely on local high schools for use of the facilities. Most recently, the Pioneers used Mercer County High School’s facilities.

“We’re very grateful for allowing us to do that as well as the community for allowing us to do that,” Sparrow said. “We want to make sure that we’re to represent them in the best way possible.”

Friday’s home opener, Sparrow said, will be especially important for a group of juniors that have been with the program since its humble beginnings.

“For them to start out with reversible jerseys as a club basketball team — playing at the old Harrodsburg High School for their games,” he said. “To have their own home is crucial. I’m looking forward to looking over and seeing the smiles on those guys faces. They have been everything a coach could ask for. “

The facility is more than just a basketball court. It also has multiple classrooms for the student-athletes to do homework and actually have classes in. That education aspect is something that Sparrow preaches heavily and said is core to the tenets of his program.

“Faith. Family. Education. Basketball. That’s how we look at our priorities. The education standard is really utilized over here,” he said. “We have multiple areas where we can watch film and do scouting reports, but at least three times a day, I get to see my guys over here in class. We get to see and monitor the growth of them in the classroom. We do that just as much as we monitor their growth on the court.”

Sparrow said that when his team first saw the facility finished, the reality set in for them.

“The first day that we walked in — they were kind of just star struck. It’s like they finally realized that this is happening,” he said. “A lot of times, when words are said — until you finally see that final product, it doesn’t really set in. So I think they had a moment of clarity like ‘Oh, this is real.’ 

“I hope that when future recruits and opponents walk in here, they see the facility as something special that we have. Because it really is.”