VMI Basketball Enjoys Successful 2020-21 Season

Coach Dan Earl giving instructions from the sidelines.

Dan Earl, head coach, was named consensus Southern Conference Coach of the Year by both the league coaches and media and became the first VMI coach to receive the honor since 1995. —Photo courtesy VMI Keydets

The VMI basketball team navigated through several pandemic-related challenges in 2020-21 and emerged with a winning season and plenty of accomplishments that marked this year as one of the program’s most memorable.

The Keydets went 13-12 in 2020-21, their first winning season since 2014. VMI also finished 7-7 in Southern Conference play for their most league victories since the 2014-15 campaign and earned a first-round bye in the SoCon tournament for the first time in six years. The Keydets also enjoyed their best run in the SoCon tourney since 2003 when they reached the semifinals. In the quarterfinals against No. 3 Furman, VMI rallied from a 15-point deficit with under nine minutes remaining to emerge victorious in overtime over the Paladins, 81-80, and advance to the semifinals where the Keydets fell to Mercer.

VMI also defeated the top four teams in the league standings during the the regular season including three league foes (Furman, Wofford, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) that were in first place at the time they faced the Keydets. Overall, VMI defeated seven of the nine SoCon opponents they played during the season.

Dan Earl, head coach, was named consensus Southern Conference Coach of the Year by both the league coaches and media and became the first VMI coach to receive the honor since 1995 when Bart Bellairs was chosen by the media.

At home, VMI attained near-perfection in Cameron Hall going 11-1 and matching the mark posted by the 1989-90 squad under Coach Joe Cantafio. A two-point loss against Wofford Jan. 13 was the only home loss.

VMI accomplished all this while having to endure a two-week pause at the end of the regular season due to COVID-19 related issues. The last three regular season conference games were wiped out forcing VMI to open SoCon tournament play not having competed the previous 14 days. Still, the Keydets found a way to upset Furman and advance to the semifinals.

Greg Parham ’21, guard, earned first team All-SoCon honors, chosen by the media, while Jake Stephens ’22, center, took consensus All-SoCon second team honors. Trey Bonham ’24, guard, landed a spot on the SoCon all-freshman team.

Parham became the 42nd player in VMI program history to reach 1,000 career points and finished his Institute journey with 1,075 points. He led the SoCon in scoring in league games with a 20.5 PPG average and also topped the SoCon in 3-point percentage with a 43.5% mark. Parham also earned the first SoCon player of the month basketball honor for the Keydets since November 2015 by averaging 23.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game in eight January contests. Parham was named SoCon Player of the Week for consecutive weeks in late January.

Stephens was a steady presence in the final month of the season and averaged 18.4 points and 8.6 rebounds over a 14-game stretch. He pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds along with 19 points at The Citadel Feb. 20. Stephens was named SoCon Player of the Week Feb. 9 after a 22-point, nine rebound effort against Wofford Feb. 3. He produced five double-doubles on the season and ranked third in the SoCon in rebounding (7.8), third in blocks (1.6), fourth in free throw shooting at 81.2%, and 12th in scoring (14.9).

Bonham scored a season and career high 20 points against Wofford Jan. 13 in his first start of the year and averaged 11.7 points in seven starts while coming off the bench in the other contests. He had 14 double-figure games on the year.

Other key contributors included Kamdyn Curfman ’23 and Sean Conway ’23, who each started all 25 games. Curfman shot 40.7% from 3-point range which ranked third in the league and Conway produced three double-doubles on the year. Myles Lewis ’21 was a rebounding force averaging 7.5 rebounds a game (fifth in the SoCon) and concluded his career with a season-high 24 points against Mercer in the tournament semifinals.

VMI once again was one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams. After ranking second in the nation last season, VMI at the point of this season’s end stood second again in Division I, averaging 10.8 “threes” a game.