Men's Basketball

#BethelPilotTop10 – No. 1 Rico Swanson

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A second is a measure of time, but a moment describes much more. In one second, Rico Swanson cemented a moment in the hearts of Bethel fans everywhere. Time was winding down in the 1998 NAIA National Championship game. Just days before, the star point guard for the Pilots beat the buzzer for a game-winner to send Bethel to the promised land.
Rico Swanson is the player with the most wins in NAIA Division II history.
Rico Swanson is the player with the most wins in NAIA Division II history.
But Swanson was not done. As he moved up the court, he was smothered by an Oregon Tech defender. He gave a hesitation move to create space at the three-point line, took one dribble and...then it happened. The moment we all remember. As the shot floated into the net, Swanson soared to amazing heights. That game-winner was the last shot Swanson ever took as a Pilot, and it came on the biggest stage. The national championship victory was the third of Swanson's career, and his list of accomplishments goes even farther. Originally, Swanson had been recruited to play football for Florida State and Miami out of high school. However, he wanted to stay close to home and play basketball. Thank goodness. He appeared in all 40 games his freshman year, and he made a memorable impact on the 1995 NAIA National Tournament. In the championship game, Swanson set the table for another famous shot with a sweet reverse layup that also drew a foul. The three-point play cut the Northwest Nazarene lead to one. That game would belong to Mark Galloway, but Swanson had left his mark - he was named to the All-Tournament team as a freshman. He broke out in his sophomore season, averaging 13.2 points per game (PPG) and an astounding 4.0 steals per game (SPG) to go along with 6.0 assists per game (APG). He led the team to the first-ever undefeated conference season in Crossroads League history. He was an NCCAA First-Team All-American, and the Pilots' Team MVP. His status went even higher as a junior. He upped his scoring average to 17.9 PPG and recorded a solid 5.8 APG. That season, the individual accolades began to pour in. Swanson was named both an NAIA and NCCAA First Team All-American. He was named NAIA Tournament MVP, as he led the Pilots to their second NAIA National Title. He was named Crossroads League Player of the Year. All of those had been accomplished before. But Swanson was all about breaking new ground. In 1997, Swanson became the first Bethel basketball player to win NAIA National Player of the Year. How in the world could he follow up a season like that? Well, more of the same. As a senior, Swanson appeared in and started all 40 games. This was arguably his most productive year, statistically speaking. He averaged 16.6 PPG, 5.9 rebounds per game (RPG), 6.3 APG and 3.3 SPG. He led the team in assists and steals. Not only that, but his 132 steals on the year set a program record which stands to this day. He once again led the Pilots to an undefeated season in Crossroads League play, and was once again named Crossroads League Player of the Year. His late-game heroics netted him another NAIA Tournament MVP award en route to his third NAIA National Championship with Bethel. With that performance, he became the all-time leading scorer in tournament history. He is now the third-highest scorer. Then he won his second consecutive NAIA National Player of the Year award. The only other player to win the award twice was all-time NBA great Scottie Pippen. He was named Team MVP for a third consecutive season, and he won the prestigious NCCAA Pete Maravich Award. He is Bethel's career leader in wins (144) and steals (469). He is the player with the most wins in NAIA Division II men's basketball history. Rico Swanson had one of the most impressive careers in NAIA history. But more than that, he left us with moments - ones that we will never forget. For that, he comes in at No. 1 on #BethelPilotTop10. With that, the list is now over. Did you think someone was snubbed? Tell us by using #BethelPilotTop10 on Twitter. We always want to hear from you! The top ten was created by combining expert picks, statistics, championships and awards won, as well as the voting on Twitter. Some players may have been rated high by experts but did not receive as many votes as others. Others may have received votes but their statistics did not matchup against others. The top ten is comprised of the ten players who scored the best across all categories. To see the voting, visit the #BethelPilotTop10 page on the Beacon’s homepage.
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