January 13, 2014 • From the BenchWinning Hoops

Graphics honor past, present athletes at Northwestern Oklahoma

Northwestern Oklahoma State University last year made a number of improvements to its weight room and football facilities, and now other teams want in on the action.

Ryan Kaiser, associate director of athletics, said the university is upgrading its men’s basketball locker room with graphics, similar to what was done last year with the football program. Previous improvements impressed coaches so much, they wanted to have something of their own.

“We really liked what was done at the field house, looking specifically in the weight room with Big Signs and the work that they did, Kaiser said. Our basketball coach … he wanted to touch up his locker room and see what they could do with their graphics.”

Northwestern Oklahoma State in Alva, Oklahoma, underwent a number of improvements in 2014 as it makes the transition to NCAA Division II from the NAIA. Graphics and skins were added to some of its facilities, embracing a “past with present” theme that honored some of the alumni and star athletes that have passed through its doors.

The men’s basketball program would seem to be a natural fit. Former pro Gaylon Nickerson and Slade Young, who is now a high school basketball coach in the state, are among those worthy of a lasting legacy.

Kaiser said the plan was to emblazon the locker room walls with images of those athletes, along with those presently with the team to give players pride in the program.

“We wanted to honor those guys that had come before and put their names and faces on the wall for the guys that came in here, Kaiser said. We really want to take care of this and be as big time as we can.”

Northwestern Oklahoma State becomes a full member of Division II in September. Teams are already approved to face opponents at that level, but postseason opportunities aren’t awarded until the completion of a three-year probationary period, mandatory for all programs making the transition.

Last year, Kaiser said the university planned to upgrade its press box, and following the football season new athletic turf was to be installed at the stadium. Moving up means the program needs to get on par with schools in its new division.

Work with the football facilities is ongoing, and men’s basketball is now on the radar. Kaiser said they would explore upgrading the women’s basketball locker room, as the skins and graphics provided by BigSigns.com seem to have a contagious effect that make programs want something of their own.

It’s not a brand new arena or a high-definition scoreboard, but Kaiser said the minor improvements still have a major impact. It’s not always about how much you spend, rather the meaning behind what’s done. Student-athletes like to see that the institution recognizes those that contribute to the program.

It also means a lot to recruiters, who have a something more to show off when potential student-athletes visit.

“You gotta make it big time where you are, Kaiser said. Just the thousands we spend to get these skins on the wall have made a big difference. Kids want to know where they’re going to sleep and where they’re going to call their locker room. If you can provide an opportunity to come in and look at an area they can call their own, that’s going to gain you respect.”

As for the work itself, Northwestern Oklahoma had been down this road before, so the logistical challenges that often come with renovations or upgrades were minimized. Kaiser said the biggest hurdle in addressing the men’s basketball locker room was the textured walls that needed to be sanded down before the skins could go up.

Work on the locker room wasn’t started until the end of February, as the athletic department wanted to wait until the season was winding down. Those that have managed to see the final product are impressed by what’s been done.

“The proof is in the pudding, Kaiser said. We feel it only benefitted us by being able to put that type of material up there, but there’s just not a lot of graphics that look like ours. Guys feel good about where they’re able to hang their hats.”