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  • Writer's pictureJack Meyer

NJCAA D1 Women's - Big Offseason Moves

Nearly every team in the NJCAA brings in new talent in between seasons. Whether a school lands highly-touted recruits or adds new talent to the roster via the transfer portal, coaches are always looking for ways to improve their program. A busy offseason full of moves can give some squads a leg up, or force others to start back at square one. The following transactions from the last few months shook up the Women’s NJCAA landscape and will be worth keeping an eye on this upcoming season.

All-American Rapuluchi Ngorka Joins Indian River

Ngorka established herself as one of the most dominant players in all of women’s JUCO last season. In her 32 appearances with Eastern Florida State College, Ngorka averaged 13.6 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. She also played a key role in EFSC’s Elite Eight run in last year’s NJCAA Tournament. In the Titans’ Elite Eight matchup against Jones College, she pulled down a tournament record 26 rebounds.

Ngorka was named to the NJCAA Division I National Championship All-Tournament team. She also secured the title of Central Conference Player of the Year and earned an NJCAA All-American First Team nod.

Following the 2021-22 season, Ngorka decided to seek out a change of scenery. She eventually ended up transferring to Indian River State College. Ngorka is entering her third year in women’s JUCO following stints with Independence Community College and EFSC, respectively. With Indian River coming off of a 22-9 campaign last season, Ngorka will look to lift the squad to new heights this year.

Northwest Florida State Lands D-1 Alums Destiny McPhaul and Zayla Tinner

After winning the NJCAA Championship in 2021, Northwest Florida State College saw its hopes of a repeat come to a screeching halt this past postseason. Despite compiling a 24-2 regular season record, the Raiders were knocked out in the second round of the 2022 NJCAA Tournament by South Plains College. Nevertheless, NFSC has made it clear it is coming back with a vengeance. The Raiders landed two highly coveted transfers this past offseason: Destiny McPhaul and Zayla Tinner.

ESPN ranked McPhaul as the 34th best guard in the Class of 2021 rankings. As a high school senior, she averaged 26 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game. Following her successful tenure at West Catholic High School, McPhaul originally signed a National Letter of Intent with Virginia Tech University for her freshman year. However, she chose to enroll at Temple University instead. Due to her NLI agreement with Virginia Tech, McPhaul had to sit out her freshman season. As a result, McPhaul did not see any action at Temple before transferring to NFSC.

Tinner saw plenty of success in her high school career as well. In her career at Amarillo High School, Tinner racked up over 2300 career points. The Texas Association of Basketball Coaches also named her the Class 5A Player of the Year in her senior season. Eventually, after ESPN named her a three-star recruit, she committed to the University of Southern California. Tinner made eight appearances in her freshman season with USC before transferring to Seward County Community College. She averaged 18.3 points per game in nine games with Seward, establishing herself as one of the team’s go-to scorers. Eventually, she decided to sign on with NFSC for her third year of college basketball.

In a series of tweets from June 2022, NFSC assistant coach Josh Bren expressed his excitement for McPhaul and Tinner to join the Raiders. Shen described McPhaul as a “high IQ [point guard]” and an “elite scorer.” He also called Tinner an “experienced veteran” and noted that she “can get buckets” whenever needed. Safe to say, the Raiders will be receiving a major boost with these two arriving on campus this fall.

D-2 Veteran Blesseth Dillingham and Former Top JUCO Prospect Merveille Nkoyock Transfer to Independence CC

Independence Community College has certainly stayed busy this offseason. One of its most significant moves was picking up Blesseth Dillingham from Claflin University, an NCAA Division 2 program. Dillingham appeared in 25 games with Claflin last season, starting in 21 of them. She averaged 4.3 points, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game before electing to join ICC for the 2022-23 campaign.

Dillingham received a shoutout on ESPN’s TikTok and Twitter for her staunch defense in a high school game. The clip, which garnered over 38,000 likes on TikTok, shows Dillingham poke the ball from her opponent three times before snatching it away and scoring on a fast break. The clip perfectly demonstrates the energy and passion that Dillingham plays with, and what she will be bringing to the table for ICC this year.

Soon after Dillingham’s transfer became official, ICC snagged another big commitment: they landed Merveille Nkoyock from Frank Phillips College. Nyoyock did not see any action last year due to injury, but she was projected as a top 10 player in women’s JUCO prior to her sitting out. Nkoyock also made an appearance in the 2021 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket tournament, representing her home country of Cameroon.

In her five appearances throughout the tournament, she averaged 5.4 points, 1.4 assists and 1.2 rebounds per game. She helped lead Cameroon to a top three finish in the tournament following a 53-49 victory over Senegal in the third-place game. Nkoyock shone the brightest in Cameroon’s matchup with Cape Verde. She dropped in 17 points shooting 7-for-10 from the field while chipping in with three rebounds and two assists, leading Cameroon to a 71-40 victory. Dillingham and Nkoyock will combine to make a deadly one-two punch for ICC that other backcourts need to watch out for.

Moberly Area Snags Four-Star Recruit Aaliyah Smith

Aaliyah Smith generated plenty of interest from Division 1 schools during her high school career. The Madison La Follette High School alumna was recruited by Arizona University, LSU, Rutgers University and the University of Minnesota. However, Smith opted to go the JUCO route instead, signing with Moberly Area Community College.

Smith did not see the court very often during her high school career. After averaging 20 points per game in her freshman year at Verona High School, Smith sat out her sophomore and junior years. Eventually, she returned to the hardwood with Madison La Follette midway through senior year. Smith led her squad on a 13-game winning streak following her season debut. The school finished with a 14-8 record.

In addition to her high school basketball career, Smith played in multiple AAU tournaments across the country where she garnered nationwide interest. With a four-star ranking from ESPN and a handful of top-tier programs interested in her, Smith shocked the nation when she chose to join MACC instead. She is the highest-ranked prospect to ever join the Moberly Area program. Smith will likely receive significant playing time with the Greyhounds this upcoming season, so this storyline will certainly be one to keep an eye on.

Gulf Coast State Brings Raiane Dias Dos Santos On Board

In the last few years, Gulf Coast State College has endured its fair share of struggles. Since the Commodores went 34-2 in the 2016-17 season, its winning percentage has steadily decreased in nearly every subsequent season. Coming off a subpar 2021-22 campaign that saw them finish at 19-10, Gulf Coast State sought to bolster the squad by any means necessary.

The Commodores took their search for new talent across the globe. Eventually, they landed on Brazilian standout Raiane Dias Dos Santos. Dos Santos, who just turned 19 this past July, played for the Brazilian club ADC Bradesco prior to joining Gulf Coast State. She also represented Brazil in the 2021 FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup.

In her seven appearances with the national team, Dos Santos averaged 4.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Her strongest performance came in Brazil’s Round of 16 matchup against the Czech Republic. Despite her squad taking a 74-64 loss, Dos Santos recorded 19 points and six rebounds on 7-for-13 shooting. Gulf Coast State will be looking to reestablish itself as a powerhouse program this upcoming season, and a seasoned talent like Dos Santos may be just what the doctor ordered.

Carly Keats Becomes A Jones College Bobcat

One of the strongest programs in women’s JUCO just got even stronger. Jones College signed Mississippi Class 5A Player of the Year Carly Keats this past February. Keats established herself as one of the best players in the state with an impressive high school resume. In her senior season at Neshoba Central High, Keats won a State Championship, leading her squad to an incredible 33-0 record along the way.

Keats, a multifaceted combo guard, averaged 14.2 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game in her final season at Neshoba Central. She also took home MVP honors in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game for high school girls. Keats went 6-for-9 from long distance in her final MS/AL All-Star Game, breaking the record for most three-point shots made by any Mississippi All-Star.

The Mississippi Sports Group described Keats as a “winner,” noting her strong work ethic and basketball IQ. Keats has shown how well-rounded she is throughout her high school career with her numerous accolades and impressive on-court performances. She will now be looking to carry over her success to a very successful women’s JUCO program in Jones College. The Bobcats have maintained a .856 winning percentage over the last seven seasons, going 172-29 during that span. Adding a player like Keats to the roster will only make the team stronger.

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