Darland keeps glass half full
Former C-G/D standout on DMACC’s national team before cancellation
BOONE — Rhett Darland had trouble finding the exact words to express himself after Des Moines Area Community College had clinched a spot to the men’s national basketball tournament.
That sense of accomplishment didn’t change for Darland even after the NJCAA announced they would be canceling remaining athletic events due to the spread of COVID-19.
DMACC was scheduled to begin play in Danville, Ill. as the No. 2 seed in the tournament earlier this month. Officials had hoped to postpone the tournament until April, but all sports were eventually called for the rest of the academic year because of the pandemic.
“It was tough for all of us without a doubt, but it’s definitely the right call,” Darland said. “Looking back on the season, winning the national tournament was a goal we had since we stepped foot on campus this summer. While we didn’t have the opportunity to do that, it’s still rewarding to know we made it there.
“Every single guy on this team would tell you that this is the closest they’ve ever been to their teammates. We were really a family. That’s really what made us believe we had a good chance of winning in Danville.”
Darland, a former Clarion-Goldfield/Dows standout, enjoyed the memorable season with DMACC after transferring from Waldorf University.
“Coming from a small town that never won a conference or regional championship, the feeling that I had when the horn sounded was something like I had never experienced before,” Darland said. “After a very long season, it was nice to be validated with a win knowing that all of our work we put in was actually paying off.
“The entire Boone community and supporters of DMACC have been amazing for our team this year, and it felt great to be able to win a (regional) championship on our home floor for them.”
As co-regular season champions with Kirkwood, the Bears were the No. 2 seed. They opened regionals with wins over Iowa Central and Iowa Lakes, and were awarded the championship game versus North Iowa Area at home after the Trojans upset the Eagles.
DMACC, which was ranked fifth in the final national poll, won seven in a row to conclude the year. They were 19-0 at home, including a thrilling 82-80 victory over NIACC.
For Darland, the focus now shifts to completing academic work and preparing for his next stop.
“The relationships I made with the guys on the team are really just as important as the basketball side of things to me,” Darland said. “I’ll be graduating after the summer semester with my AA in liberal arts and I’ll be pursuing a physical education degree next fall.
“The recruiting process has just started for me as the season ended sooner than expected, but I definitely plan on playing basketball next year and look forward to starting the next chapter in my life.”
During the season, DMACC ranked in the Top-20 in points, field goal percentage, free throw shooting, rebounding and assists. However, it was the defense that carried the Bears far in the postseason. They were first in the country in points per game allowed at 62.5, first in lowest opponents field goal percentage (33.9 percent) and opponents’ 3-point shooting (26.7 percent).
“We all came to DMACC this summer to play in a couple of JUCO showcases, and honestly, from that first weekend we played together, we knew there was a chance to make something special happen,” Darland said. “That’s when we made our goal to reach the national tournament in Danville, and we really believed we could go win it all. Everybody had a team-first mindset from the start, which is very difficult to find in junior college basketball, so we knew from the very beginning that if we put in the work and stayed focused on our goal, it was achievable.
“We had to go through a lot of ups and downs this season, dealing with losing players, injuries and many other things that come along with a normal basketball year, and we kind have just embraced any adversity that was thrown our way and attacked every day with a ‘chip on our shoulder’ type of mindset.”
Darland played in 15 games, scoring 44 points with 14 made 3-pointers, 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“Transferring to DMACC was the best decision I’ve ever made,” he said. “I originally had tried out for the team and been offered a player-manager role, but I was able to earn a spot on the roster during the summer, and eventually received a scholarship. The transition was very easy because my family actually lives right outside of Boone, and a couple of my teammates from high school AAU played here, so I knew a couple of people here at DMACC already.”
Darland helped Clarion-Goldfield/Dows win 13 games as a senior, averaging almost 18 points a night with 112 rebounds, 39 assists, 28 steals and 88 made 3-pointers. He finished his high school career with 1,011 points and 208 made triples.
Darland’s brother, Ryan, was a manager for the basketball team.