On April 3, 2009, Justin Namolik was named head men’s basketball coach at Shepherd University.
Eric Gabriel joined the Shepherd University Rams basketball staff during the summer of 2012 after spending a four-year stint coaching at NCAA institutions in North Carolina. Preceding his collegiate coaching career, he spent four years coaching at the high school level in Ohio.
Gabriel commented on joining the Shepherd basketball program with this, “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity Coach Namolik and Shepherd University have given me. The tradition and level of competition among NCAA Division II basketball in West Virginia is second to none. Shepherd University athletics as an entirety are exciting to be a part of right now and I’m looking forward to being part of the basketball program’s journey with the foundation that Coach Namolik has built.”
Prior to coming to Shepherd, Gabriel served three seasons as an assistant at NCAA Division II Mount Olive College, where the Trojans compiled a record of 60-27 winning a conference regular season and tournament championship in 2010 with a 25-6 record.
During his three seasons at Mount Olive he had the opportunity to coach two Conference-Carolinas players of the year, as well as coach the conference freshman of the year. In addition, Mount Olive also had three other all-conference performers during this time.
At Mount Olive, Gabriel’s main duties included recruiting coordinator, strength and conditioning coordinator, and head of scouting opponents. He also helped to oversee player academics, assist in practice planning, on floor coaching, and all other areas of the program. On the floor, Gabriel was in charge of implementing and coaching out of bounds plays and zone defenses.
Before being hired at Mount Olive, Gabriel spent the 2008-09 season at NCAA Division III Methodist University as an assistant coach. During his year with the Monarchs he assisted with recruiting, scouting, and on floor coaching while coordinating the strength and conditioning program.
Prior to making the jump to the collegiate level, Gabriel spent four years at the high school level in Ohio. His first two years were as an assistant coach to his father Blaine at his alma mater, Alexander High School in Albany, Ohio. During the 2005-06 season, the Spartans set school records for both total wins (18) and consecutive wins (16), finishing the season with a school best 18-4 record.
Gabriel then took over as head coach at Fort Loramie High School in Fort Loramie, Ohio. The Redskins had won just six games the season prior to Gabriel’s arrival, but during the 2007-08 season he guided the program to a 15-8 record including two wins in the OHSAA tournament.
Gabriel played collegiate basketball at West Liberty University from 2000-04. He was a three-year starting point guard and named co-captain during his senior campaign. He played high school basketball at Alexander High School in southeast Ohio setting school records in all assists categories. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education from West Liberty in 2004 and a master of science in recreation and sport sciences from Ohio University in 2011.
He married his wife, Misty, in September 2007 and they reside in Martinsburg with their English bulldog, Deuce.
Entering his 12th season on the Ram basketball coaching staff is Mike Branson, a 1992 Shepherd graduate and former Ram player.
Branson is responsible for on court teaching at practice and specializes in defense. He also assists in program fundraising and community and alumni relations .
Branson works for Allstate Insurance and has a son, Nicholas. Branson grew up in Shepherdstown and has a brother, Carlton, who also played for the Rams.
“We are very fortunate to have a former Ram player on our staff. Mike believes in Shepherd and what we do and he is committed to getting Shepherd basketball to the top of the WVIAC.”