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Jimmie coaching staffs going barefoot

University of Jamestown men's basketball coaching staff, from left, Tyler Peterson, Michael Iseman, Beau Rabedeaux and head coach Danny Neville (crouching), will all go barefoot for Friday's game vs. Bellevue University at Harold Newman Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun

University of Jamestown head men's basketball coach Danny Neville will be straying from his normal pregame routine Friday at Harold Newman Arena.

"It's going to be a little weird," Neville said. "I'll probably be getting a pedicure."

Neville and his coaching staff, along with Jimmie women's head basketball coach Greg Ulland and his staff, will all be coaching barefoot during their North Star Athletic Association conference doubleheader against visiting Bellevue University. It's all part of University of Jamestown's inaugural Samaritan's Feet barefoot basketball games and shoe drive.

Fans who donate new children's athletic shoes will be admitted into Friday's games free of charge, starting with the women's contest at 5:30. Those willing to participate are encouraged to donate athletic shoes in sizes toddler 10-13 or children's 1-4.

The event concludes on Saturday with shoe distribution from 10 a.m. to noon at Newman Arena, sponsored by Unison Bank in Jamestown. University of Jamestown students and community volunteers will wash the feet of and provide new shoes and socks to approximately 150 pre-registered local children in grades K-5.

"It affects people in Jamestown and the surrounding area, so anything we can do to give back is awesome," Neville said. "It's something that we can do, and our players can do, to generate awareness and help."

For those who would like to donate shoes but cannot attend Friday's doubleheader, shoes can be brought to Unison Bank (401 1st Ave. S), the Jamestown Salvation Army (320 1st Ave. N) or Newman Arena (1104 N. University Ave.) on Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Since 2013, over 5,000 pairs of shoes have been distributed in North Dakota in seven different cities with Jamestown becoming the eighth city. For more information about Samaritan's Feet International, visit www.SamaritansFeet.org.

"Samaritan's Feet is thrilled to partner with the University of Jamestown and Unison Bank for these first time events," said Denise Blomberg, Regional Director, Operations of Samaritan's Feet. "Their combined efforts to encourage servant leadership within their coaches, student athletes, university and community as a whole is such a blessing not only for our organization but also to Jamestown and the surrounding area."

Coaching sans shoes and socks will be a first-time experience for Neville. But he and his assistant coaches might have to keep their toenails trimmed if the experience brings the Jimmies good luck.

"I don't know," Neville said. "We just might have to keep doing it."

Jimmies back in NAIA's top 25

University of Jamestown's recent four-game winning streak, including victories over conference rivals Dickinson State and Mayville State, didn't go unnoticed nationally.

The Jimmie men (19-7, 8-5 NSAA) are back in the NAIA top 25 coaches poll at No. 23, after being ranked 18th earlier this season. Jamestown currently owns a share of the NSAA conference lead with Bellevue and Dickinson State with three conference games remaining, including Friday's matchup with the Bruins (16-10) and Saturday's home contest vs. Valley City State University (11-15).

"I'll be happy if we're there at the end of the year," Neville said on the Jimmies' ranking. "We're just concentrating on one game at a time, and we've got a big one Friday."

Jamestown edged Bellevue 88-85 and Valley City State 89-86 in OT earlier this season, using strong second halves in both games to come away with victories. Starting games stronger has been a point of emphasis for the Jimmies during their late-schedule surge.

The Jimmies currently rank fourth in total scoring, fifth in field-goal percentage (.512), fifth in 3-point percentage (.419) and sixth in 3-pointers made (282), but teams have grown wise to Jamestown's outside shooting formula. Look for the Jimmies to get 6-foot-6 senior Leighton Sampson going inside early against the Bruins.

"We've been pretty successful from the 3-point line, and teams have subsequently started pressuring us and closing out long," Neville said. "So we just have to be in attack mode offensively and get to the rim.

"Just get the ball inside and see what the defense is doing," Neville added. "We're the kind of team that if we hit our first couple of shots, and we get that momentum going, we're pretty good."

University of Jamestown women's basketball (24-3, 13-0 NSAA) slipped from No. 6 to No. 8 in the latest national ranking, after winning four straight games since falling to 10th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan.

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

(701) 952-8461
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