Preston Wynne, a Spokane tribal member, was named MVP of the National Basketball Championship for NAIA schools on March 25 when his team, Vanguard University from Costa Mesa, California, won the National Championship. Wynne was also named as a First Team All-American.
Preston talked to ICTMN about these awards, his background, and what he sees for his future.
How does it feel to be MVP of the National Tournament?
It feels good. It was a goal I had personally set for myself at the start of the season. I thought I could get the NAIA MVP for the whole season, but I guess I finished second. It feels like all the hard work I’ve put in over the years has finally paid off a little bit.
Who did you play in the finals and what was the score?
We played Emmanuel from Georgia. The final score was 70-65.
You scored 42 in the semifinal game, but how were your stats for the entire tournament?
I think I averaged 26 or 28 points a game, which was pretty solid. I didn’t shoot extremely well, but we play such hard defense. I think that’s one of the reasons we won the tournament. Our defense was way different than anyone else, but that takes a toll on your legs, playing five games in seven days.
Why did you pick Vanguard?
One of the main reasons is that the coach was from Reardan, Washington, near the Spokane Reservation. He knew me, and I had a workout with him right out of high school. When I was getting recruited by all those D-1 teams, he was one of the only NAIAs that contacted me. Other NAIAs came in after they heard I was D-1 ineligible.
Tell me about Vanguard and what it’s meant to you?
It’s a private Christian school. It’s an amazing place. We have one of the smallest gyms in the country and almost every student would pack that gym every night. It was just an amazing, amazing experience. It’s just a family atmosphere you get when you come down here.
You were tournament MVP in junior college as well. How do you compare the two MVP awards?
For me, awards are not really that great. It’s more the experience than the award. The award doesn’t say to me the best player, it says a great experience. I even told my coach he could keep the award in the trophy case, but he’s trying to make me keep it.
Why couldn’t you sign with a D-1 school after junior college?
There was a rule that after you turn 21 you cannot play in any organized basketball event outside of college basketball or they would take a year of eligibility away. I played two years of basketball tournaments after I turned 21 because I started college when I was 23.
What happened after high school?
I had my son my senior year and dropped out of school. I finished online at home while I watched him. I only played part of that year and wasn’t getting many junior college looks. After that, I had another kid and didn’t feel like playing basketball and leaving Isis and Jameer to pursue my dream. I started playing in Native tournaments. I now have another child, Kale.
How did you fit in with your teammates, being older and married?
I’m a good people person for the most part. I don’t try to separate myself from anybody. They treated me like their older brother pretty much. It was really amazing the way they kind of took me in. I was 27, so I wasn’t even the oldest on the team.
Any regrets at not being able to play D-1?
No regrets whatsoever. The only thing a D-1 college could have for me that a NAIA wouldn’t, was exposure to the professional level.
What does your future hold in terms of basketball and beyond?
I’m going to try the NBA thing. But if that doesn’t work out, there’s probably a spot overseas for me. Hopefully, I can get on a really good overseas team and make some money for a couple of years. I’m trying to make enough money so I can go back to the rez and be financially stable. I’m going to try to work with troubled youth and see if I can change some things.