MEN's NJCAA All-Tournament Team and Awards
HUTCHINSON, Kans. --- When the basketball went up for the tip off at 10 a.m. (CST) on March 14, many of the folks in this south central Kansas town of about 40,000 turned their attention to the Sports Arena, where the 75th annual National JC Athletic Association Division l Tournament began a one-week run, culminating with the championship game on the night of March 19.
There were 193 teams that started practice on Oct. 1 with their first games on Nov. 1. Twenty-four teams – 16 District winners and 8 at-large teams – at season’s end made the Tournament, with teams seeded 1 thru 24 playing 23 games in a single-elimination format.
In the championship game, Northwest Florida St. dominated Salt Lake, Utah, 83-67, despite being an at-large team and the No. 10 seed. No. 1 seed Salt Lake was ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA pre-season poll and in all 14 regular season polls. Northwest Florida St. last won a NJCAA Tournament championship in 2015 and a year ago hired Coach Greg Heiar, who has extensive NCAA Division l experience: he was an assistant coach at East Tennessee St., Southern Mississippi, LSU and Wichita St., and was also the head coach at Chipola, Fla. JC (2004-09). Ironically, Chipola handed NW Florida St. three of its five losses going into the NJCAA Tournament. Florida, considered the toughest region (VllI) in the NJCAA, lived up to that billing when two teams made the semifinals: Northwest Florida St. beat Triton, Ill. (68-64) and Chipola lost to Salt Lake (70-68); NW Florida St and Chipola are in the five-team Panhandle Conference.
“It feels great,” said Heiar. “It’s what we came here to do. Did I think that it would happen in year one? Probably not. Any time you hold a team that averaged 105 points to 15 points at the half…well. The players were so locked in. They turned a dream into reality.”
Salt Lake was overwhelmed. “The game was over at halftime,” said Salt Lake Coach Kyle Taylor. “We were down 26 points (41-15) and we had to have everything go right in the second half. We never did get our footing. Hats off to Northwest Florida St. They played phenomenally well.” Northwest Florida St. finished the season with a 31-5 record, the Bruins 35-2.
JC followers everywhere could watch the games. At Eastern Florida St. in Melbourne, Fla. – 1,508 miles away – Coach Jeremy Shulman hunkered down in his office and popped open his laptop to watch a video stream of Game 1 between Moberly, Mo. and Pearl River, Miss. Said Shulman, who had Eastern Florida St. in the finals of the Tournament in 2017: “The atmosphere at Hutchinson is incredible. At Tournament time, there are so many great teams and great coaches. To win it all, there’s also an element of good fortune.” Now Hutchinson, Kans. can get back to normal.
• Northwest Florida St. took second place in the NJCAA Tournament in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 and Coach Steve Forbes, who led those teams to a two-season 62-6 record is now making plenty of noise as the head coach at Wake Forest.
• Three of the semifinal teams – Salt Lake, Chipola and Northwest Florida St. - were well-known commodities in the NJCAA ranks. Only Triton, Ill., is still making a name for itself, but it’s doing so fast thanks in part to Coach John Clancy, an assistant coach at John A. Logan, Ill. last season. The Trojans won the Dll championship in 2017-18 and then moved into Dl. Triton was making its first ever trip to Hutchinson and did it as at-large team. Said Clancy: “I know most people didn't expect us to do what we did, but I know our players and staff believed we could make a run. I told them (the players) that they belong among the best…it will change the Triton program forever. They will be the team that propelled Triton to national prominence.”
• Jacksonville St., Ala. assistant coach Tommy Wade on the NJCAA Tournament: “It’s one of the best run tournaments in all of college sports.”
NJCAA ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Achor Achor, 6-9, Chipola, Fla.
Drake Allan, 6-4, Snow, Utah
Jordan Brinson, 6-2, Salt Lake, Utah
Tre Clark, 6-3, Northwest Florida St. Themus Fulks, 6-1, Dodge City, Kans.
Quincy McGriff, 6-6, Salt Lake, Utah
Cobie Montgomery, 6-4, Triton, Ill
Sincere Parker, 6-4, Moberly Area, Mo.
Brennan Rigsby, 6-4, Northwest Florida St.
Angelo Stuart, 6-1, Hutchinson, Kans,
Kieves Turner, 6-1, South Plains, Texas Mohamed Wague, 6-9, Harcum, Pa.
Most Valuable Player
Deshawndre Washington, 6-7, Northwest Florida St.
Kam Woods, 6-2, Northwest Florida St.
South Plains, Texas
Coach of Tournament
Greg Heiar, Northwest Florida St.
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