When it comes to elite basketball in Oklahoma, the conversation usually revolves around Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Collectively, the state’s biggest schools tallied 11 NCAA Tournament berths in the past decade, with the Sooners making it to the Final Four in 2016. Furthermore, OU and OSU accumulated win totals of 193 and 181, respectively, from the 2010-11 season to 2019-20.
However, those numbers didn’t even land them on the podium among the winningest teams in Oklahoma over the last 10 years. The Sooners and Cowboys come in at fourth and fifth on that list, preceded by Southern Nazarene in second and Tulsa in third.
The team on top? Rogers State.
According to a graphic posted on the program’s Twitter account on June 24, the Hillcats’ 207 wins is a state best.
The tweet read: “Numbers don’t lie! Hard work and culture are the backbone to our success! Thankful for every player who has put their blood, sweat and tears into this program!”
The news came as a surprise to RSU men’s basketball coach Justin Barkley, who has been at the helm for each of those 207 wins. He led the Hillcats to a No. 18 ranking and their first Division II NCAA Tournament berth before the postseason was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Barkley eclipsed the 200-win mark with an 80-72 win at Pittsburg State on January 29.
“I didn’t know that we were the winningest team,” said Barkley, who is an Inola native. “I do know we’ve had and maintained continued success here. In any form of athletics at this level, there’s a lot of parity, and it’s difficult to maintain success year in and year out. First off, you have to have some breaks fall your way. You’ve gotta have really good kids in your program, you’ve gotta have a great staff and you’ve gotta have this great support system from your university. We’ve had all those.”
Barkley has been a part of RSU’s men’s basketball for 12 of its 13 years, serving as an assistant coach from 2008-2010 before becoming the program’s third head coach at the age of 29.
The Hillcats were a power even in their infancy, and Barkley has only elevated that status over the past decade.
RSU went 30-2 in Barkley’s first year as an assistant coach in 2008-09 and was ranked No. 1 before falling in an upset to William Jewell in the first round of the NAIA Division I Tournament.
“A lot of times, a young coach like myself has to take over a job where it’s been a little bit rough,” Barkley said. “I was able to walk into a situation where there was some success early on, and we had a good nucleus of young men who really bought into me and what we were trying to build.
"It really just springboarded what we had done the previous couple of years.”