Leathernecks

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Western Illinois Leathernecks

General Information

NCAA Division: Division I
Conference: Summit
Past Conferences: WAC, Summit, Mid-Cont, Ind
City: Macomb, Illinois
Stadium: Western Hall
NCAA Tournaments: 1959*, 1980*, 1981*
*Indicates appearances in Division II

Championships:

National Championships: None
Conference Titles: 1

Team History

Western Illinois Leathernecks men’s basketball program has come a long way since it began as a Division II team. The program’s philosophy is based on the “Student first, Athlete second” approach, showcasing success on the court and in the classroom.

The team was established in the 1910-11 season and made a few NCAA Tournament appearances at the Division II level. Even in Division II, Western Illinois needed to lay a solid foundation, and their struggles were easy to decipher.

The Leathernecks made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the 1959 season but lost to Centenary and Abilene Christian in the Regional Quarterfinals and Regional 3rd Place Game. On a side note, the structure of the tournament was different at that time compared to how it is currently.

After their initial appearance in the NCAA tournament in the 1959 season, the team went on a postseason drought lasting for two decades, until they were able to qualify again in the 1980 and 1981 seasons. They both won their first two games in the opening round (Regional Quarterfinals) but lost in the Regional Finals each year, sporting an official record of 2-4 in post-season play in Division II.

Beginning with the 1981–82 season, the Leathernecks men’s basketball program moved from Division II to Division I and joined the Mid-Continent Conference a year later after their inaugural season as a Division I program under head coach Jack Margenthaler.

Because of the fierce competition, making the transition was challenging for not only the team but the program. Coach didn’t have the greatest start to his tenure with the school when he joined the team in the 1992 season. From 1995 to 1999, the Western Illinois team stats depicted that the program was on the right track because the team produced five winning seasons, but unfortunately, the school never got the opportunity to participate in any tournament with Jim Kerwin orchestrating the squads.

After Decades, a Tournament

Their opportunity to make it onto the big stage wouldn’t come until decades later. Following the 2011–12 regular season, they were selected for the College Basketball Invitational tournament, making their first postseason appearance in Division I history.

After the 2012–13 season, the Leathernecks were again selected for the College Basketball Invitational tournament. The team was immediately sent home after the Purdue Boilermakers and the Oregon State offensive and defensive schemes were too much to bear.

Their last postseason opportunity came to fruition in 2022 with head coach Rob Jeter at the helm. The team would receive an invitation to the CBI but suffered a debating defeat to the UTEP Miners in the first round, but the odds weren’t really in their favor.

Rob Jeter will be leading the Leathernecks for his third season, and have a solid record in the Summit League. However, they have some long NCAAB odds to win the conference.

All-Time Records

  • Points Scored

    • Garret Covington 1,896
    • Ceola Clark 1,472
    • David Jackson 1,431
  • Rebounds

    • Brandon Gilbeck 737
    • Todd Hutcheson 599
    • Garrick Vicks 586
  • Assists

    • Ceola Clark 464
    • Jabari Sandifer 369
    • Daryl Reed 351
  • Steals

    • Ceola Clark 242
    • Bill Heisler 167
    • Andre Humphrey 138

FAQs

What is the highest win total in program history?

Throughout its history, the program has had only three seasons where the teams recorded 20 or more wins. One of these seasons was the 2013 season, when the team recorded a record of 22-9, thanks to their strong conference play record of 13-3 under head coach Jim Molinari.

Who is the winningest coach in program history?

Throughout the program’s history, none of the coaches have recorded a winning record at the Division I level. However, head coach Jack Margenthaler has the highest win-loss percentage at .490 and also led the team to win one conference title. It remains to be seen if head coach Rob Jeter will be able to improve his record in the foreseeable future.

Who is the greatest player in program history?

It is hard to determine who the greatest player in the program’s history is, as many players who have played for the program have had successful college careers. Al Miksis went undrafted in the 1949 NBA Draft and played only eight games for the Waterloo Hawks.

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