The Point Park athletic department may be in a transitional phase.

While the Downtown university’s move from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to become an NCAA Division II institution could potentially be finalized in July, the Pioneers men’s basketball team has some unfinished business to take care of in the meantime.

Point Park has earned an automatic bid to the NAIA men’s basketball tournament by finishing atop the River States Conference regular-season points system standings. The Pioneers clinched their sixth all-time appearance in the NAIA national tournament, and first in 17 years, in addition to a top seed in their conference tournament.

“Obviously cutting nets down was awesome,” said second-year Pioneers coach Kevin Reynolds on Sunday after his team knocked off WVU Tech Friday to clinch their conference title. “You don’t get to do that very often in your life. It was awesome. It was a good feeling to do it.”

The River States East Division champion Pioneers (26-2, 15-2) finished ahead of West Division first-place St. Mary of the Woods College (23-5, 17-1) in the conference point system, which is determined by a weighted average of home and away wins and losses in addition to strength of schedule considerations.

Top-seeded Point Park, ranked No. 17 in the nation, will open its River States Conference tournament run in the quarterfinals Wednesday when it plays host to the winner of a Monday first-round game between No. 7 seed Indiana University Southeast (13-14, 8-10) and No. 10 Midway University (8-16, 6-12).

A season ago, the Pioneers fell just short of winning conference regular season or tournament titles while also failing to receive an NAIA national tournament at-large bid in Reynolds’ first season leading the program.

“We’ve used that as motivation,” he said. “We thought we were an NAIA tournament team last year and didn’t get in. Not just the guys on this year’s team, but last year’s guys that we still correspond with and talk to all the time, it’s been on our minds every day.

“Every few days in practice we bring it up.”

The River States Conference tournament semifinals are scheduled for March 2, while the finals are set for March 5. The highest remaining seed in the bracket will host each game, including the championship.

The NAIA national championship tournament bracket, meanwhile, is set to be revealed March 7. The tournament’s first- and second-round games will be held March 15-16 at campus sites around the country. A regional championship Sweet 16 round will be held before the tournament’s Elite Eight, Final Four and championship games will be played March 21-26 at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

“Your seeding is based on how well we finish,” Reynolds said. “Obviously we have a bid now, but now we’re playing for seeding.”

With a River States regular-season championship in tow, Reynolds said he believes Point Park could be in the running for one of the national championship tournament’s top seeds if his team is able to also capture a conference tournament title as well.

Point Park men’s basketball coach Kevin Reynolds finishes cutting down the net after the Pioneers knocked off WVU Tech Friday night to lock up a River States Conference regular-season title and an automatic bid to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics men’s basketball national championship tournament. (Courtesy of Aidan Ringiewicz)

“We’ve got to take it day by day,” he said. “The good news is we’ve punched our ticket. The guys have been using that as kind of their mantra for the last few weeks, as in, ‘Let’s get this ticket punched to the tournament.’

“We’ve still got work to do,” Reynolds added. “We want to be a top seed in the tournament. We know if we can win our conference tournament, there’s not many teams, I know last year, that won their regular season and won their conference tournament. That’s been one of our goals since we started.”

Point Park is led by forward Jo Valrie, who is third in the River States Conference with an average of 20.3 points per game. The 6-foot-5, 180-pound junior is also fourth in the conference in rebounding with an average of 10.5 per outing.

Guards Jalen Stamps, Jamisen Smith and Nathaniel Van also play considerable roles in the Pioneers offense, along with forwards Jordan Stowe, Jags Jhawar and Nazareth Fisher.

Stamps is averaging 19.9 points per game, Smith is scoring 14.3 and Van is contributing 10.3 for Point Park. The 7-foot-2, 245-pound Jhawar is averaging 7.4 rebounds per game, while the 6-foot-10 Fisher is contributing 7.3 and Stowe is adding 4.7.

“We feel like we can play different styles with our team,” Reynolds said. “We have good guards, we have good wings and then our up-front guys are tall and athletic as well. We feel like we can play a variety of ways based on how the games are.”

Reynolds said his program is now in a position where it is ready to make some noise with a deep run in the NAIA tournament.

“I think we are as good as anybody in the NAIA,” he said. “We felt that last year, not to sound overly confident, we just know we had a good group since we started and then we built off of last year with talent.”

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at