CBT's JUCO Update - 2021-2022 Season Recap
Looking back at the 2021-22 season…
• The fact that Northwest Florida St., the No. 10 seed and an at-large team, won the National JC Athletic Association Division I Tournament championship in Hutchinson, Kansas last month over No. 1 seeded Salt Lake, Utah (83-67) was eye-opening. Just as surprising was the departure of Coach Greg Heiar so quickly to New Mexico St. The Aggies introduced their new head coach about two weeks after the championship. Heiar replaces Chris Jans, who became the head coach at Mississippi St. Heiar, Jans, and Steve Forbes (Wake Forest), all now head coaches in D-I, were assistant coaches together at Wichita St. about a decade ago. Forbes and NWF St. finished in second place in the NJCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons (2012-13).
• Other NJCAA Tournament champions were South Suburban, Ill., in Division II (defeating Davidson-Davie, N.C. in the finals, 79-63) and Dallas, Texas-North Lake in Division III (defeating Genesee, N.Y. in the finals, 83-80, in overtime). South Suburban was the only team among 419 teams in the three NJCAA Divisions - D-I (193), D-II (132), D-III (94) - or at any collegiate level - to finish the season undefeated (33-0). The Bulldogs won four games by an average of 20 points in the Tournament. Freshman guard Damarco Minor was named the Division II Player of The Year. It was historic for Coach John Pigatti because Minor is the third straight South Suburban player named the NJCAA D-II Player of The Year. Also a feat no other college at any level has accomplished.
• In the You-Never-Know Department: Coach Lance Madison of Lamar St.-Port Arthur, Texas, and Olofu Agbaji were teammates on the Vincennes, Ind. (1989-90) juco team. Olofu’s son Ochai of Kansas, of course, was the Final Four MVP. Agbaji’s father later played at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he met his wife, Erika, a member of the women’s basketball team.
• Chris James, 6-3, the starting point guard for the College of Southern Idaho last season, was involved in a head-on car accident last summer, but he played last season. That despite not being 100 percent healthy. In the July 9, 2021, accident he said he suffered a broken femur and collarbone and a concussion. He needed to be extricated from his car. “I’m just thankful I got to play this season,” James, a native of Boise who transferred to CSI from Eastern Michigan, told KMVT Channel 11. “From not thinking he’ll be able to play to becoming a starter is an amazing story,” said CSI Coach Jeff Reinert.
• Southwestern, Ill, (25-7) may have been the most tired team in America at the season’s end. Coached by Jay Harrington, the team had 11 games (6-5) in 17 days to end the season, nine on the road. Said Harrington: “Everyone was exhausted from the bus rides back to school, classes the next day, and film sessions. We hardly had any prep time.” The rough schedule came about because of Covid restrictions and two snow events. SW was one of only two teams in the 10-team Region 24 to win 20-plus games. The good news for Harrington? All five starters return next season. Harrington is one of the best and most revered coaches in the two-year school ranks. Among active or inactive coaches, Harrington has 939 wins in JUCO, No. 2 overall. The now-retired Gene Bess of Three Rivers, Mo. leads the list: 1,300-416 in 50 years. That's that the most at any collegiate level.
• Coach Bill Muse got his 700th win in 30 years at Connors St., Okla., when the Cowboys beat Redlands (71-54) in early January. Said Muse: “If you don't have good players, you can't get 700 wins no matter how good a coach you are.” Connors St. finished the season with a 28-6 record…
Also on the coaching front: Coffeyville, Kans. In early February, Coach Jay Herkelman won his 700th game in 27 years with the Red Ravens. He is 705-209, all at Coffeyville. His squad, the 2021 NJCAA Division I Tournament champion, finished the season at 18-13.
• One of the most unsung teams nationally – understandable given it is in the most rugged region (Florida) in the NJCAA - was the State College of Florida in Bradenton (14-16). Said Eastern Florida St. Coach Jeremy Shulman, where Coach Tom Parks was an assistant coach (2017-18): “The job that Coach Parks has done is incredible. He brings in high-level talent and develops it. Not many coaches in the country have his eye for talent. His teams play with so much confidence and are so hard to guard.”
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