His name keeps creeping up the career-scoring chart at Hilbert. Bucket by bucket, Dan McFarland climbs the list. Earlier this week, he sat at fourth all-time with 1,352 points.
But McFarland really doesn’t care how many points he scores. For real. He’s not giving the correct humble answer. It doesn’t matter to him what his final stat line reads. He’s just enjoying the winning.
“When you’re winning this much, it’s fun. You don’t really care about your stats,” McFarland said. “There are games that we’ll win by 20 points and if I have 10 points I’m not going to care about something like that. As of right now, it’s about winning games. It’s not really about stats. I’ll think about that later.”
McFarland, a senior guard for the Hawks from St. Mary’s/Lancaster, has been part of a resurgence of Hilbert men’s basketball. Back in 2008, when all-time leading scorer Dallas Reinard was a senior, the Hawks were 12-13 overall, 8-10 in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference and seemingly on their way to making noise in the small, but growing, Division III conference.
Then the recession hit. And it hit small private colleges, like Hilbert, hard. Recruiting became difficult and the learning curve was steep for the men’s basketball team. But McFarland wasn’t fazed. Each year, the Hawks got better. His freshman year, the team went just 3-22 overall and 2-18 in the conference.
Last year they had their first winning record in the AMCC, going 11-7 and 15-12 overall. They advanced to the tournament semifinals for the second straight year. And for the second straight year they lost to the eventual champion.
Hilbert is off to its best start in program history at 11-3 overall and 5-2 in conference play.
What’s the difference? A good mix of veterans and newcomers along with a little bit of patience.
“When [McFarland] came in as a freshman, we were recovering from the loss of Dallas Reinard and those are huge, huge shoes to fill,” Hilbert coach Rob deGrandpre said. “It was a strange time. I don’t want to sound like Debbie Downer but it was the recession. We took our lumps when it came to recruiting. But any time you have 16 guys that get along and have the same goals in mind, I think it makes achieving those goals a little bit easier. And the focus is there.”
McFarland isn’t counting his points, in part, because there are plenty to go around. Senior Anthony Hodge is leading the Hawks with an average of 14.6 points a game. McFarland is averaging 14.2.
Sophomore Trevor Stark is averaging 11.6 and freshman Jerame Owens 10.0 along with 8.1 rebounds.
“It’s easier to pick my opportunities,” McFarland said. “We have four other players averaging or almost averaging double-digits in scoring. I’m not the only one having to do something. I think it’s also given me an opportunity to increase stuff like rebounding and assists and other aspects of the game.”
Indeed, McFarland ranks in the top 10 in the conference in rebounding (6.5), assists (3.2) and free throw percentage (.763). With 1,352 career points he probably won’t break Reinard’s all-time mark of 1,810. But that doesn’t matter to him. The goal is to get over that semifinal hump and play for a conference championship and an NCAA automatic berth.
“I think the past two years losing to the eventual champion leaves a sour taste in your mouth,” McFarland said. “I think now we’re winning the games we’re supposed to and we’re definitely competitive with the upper teams in our conference. If all goes right, I don’t see a reason why we couldn’t host the tournament here, or win it or play in it. I think we have all the pieces in place.”
The Hawks play at home Saturday against Pitt-Greensburg at 4 p.m. as the second half of the season begins in earnest. The top six teams qualify for the AMCC playoffs with the regular season champion hosting the semifinals and finals.
“When you look at Hilbert you think we’re the small dog in the fight but we feel like we can compete with the SUNYAC and the Empire 8,” deGrandpre said. “I don’t think anyone would take us lightly.”