NJCAA Women's D1 Teams to Watch Next Season
Almost every team has one thing in common right now: they believe this can be their year. Whether they are ranked number one in the country or have yet to receive a single vote in the rankings, each player on each squad has a shot to prove they are the real deal. While there are certainly some heavy hitters and powerhouses in women’s JUCO basketball, some other teams are looking to make some noise and shock the world in 2023. Here are a few of the squads looking to introduce (or reintroduce) themselves as contenders next season. Arizona Western College Matadors
The Arizona Western Matadors put together a fantastic campaign in the 2021-22 season, finishing with a 30-3 record. In the 2022 NJCAA D1 Women’s Basketball Championship, they made their first Elite Eight appearance in program history following a stellar second round victory over South Georgia Tech. However, they were subsequently knocked out by the eventual-champion Tyler Junior College Apaches.
Nevertheless, the Matadors are building something special in Yuma. Head Coach Patrick Cunningham initially planned to retire at the end of the 2021-22 campaign. He ultimately decided to return for his 24th season with the Matadors in hopes of leading them to their first ever Final Four appearance.
While multiple key Matadors have now joined Division I programs (such as Tarleton State University and West Virginia University Institute of Technology), Arizona Western still has plenty of talent. Alliance Ndiba will certainly be someone to keep an eye on during the 2022-23 season; in her freshman year, she led the Matadors with 16.0 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.
Eastern Florida State College Titans
The Titans started out the 2021-22 season unranked. Soon enough, however, they put together a fantastic regular season campaign that propelled them into the national spotlight. In perhaps one of their most incredible feats in program history, the Titans ran off a 14-game win streak that lasted from December 30, 2021, to March 4, 2022. With a 28-5 record, Eastern Florida State College finished the year ranked as the 16th in the country.
In their first national tournament appearance in school history, the Titans made it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling just short of a Final Four appearance in a tight overtime contest. Nevertheless, the team showed off just how much starpower it had throughout the tournament run. For instance, then-Titans star Rapuluchi Ngorka set a national tournament record for most rebounds in a game this past postseason. She snagged 26 boards in Eastern Florida’s quarterfinals loss.
While Ngorka currently plans to transfer to Indian River State College, the Titans still have plenty of talent returning for the 2022-23 season. Shadaria Smith and L’or Eyeba Mputu will be two major returners for Eastern Florida. Smith averaged 11.8 points and 1.5 steals per game for Eastern Florida last season, while Eyeba Mputu led the Titans with 1.8 blocks per game off the bench.
Jones College Bobcats
Jones College has been on the verge of a breakthrough for years now. Since Head Coach Missy Bilderback took over in 2015, the Bobcats have compiled an astonishing record of 172-29 over the last seven seasons. While they started the 2021-22 season ranked fourth in the country, they finished the regular season unranked with a record of 25-8. Despite their slightly underwhelming regular season performance, the Bobcats made up for it with a postseason run filled with some big wins and even bigger upsets. Jones College upset three top-20 teams in the country, racing to their first ever Final Four appearance. They will now look to build upon their recent successes in hopes of hunting down their first ever NJCAA National Championship title.
Sakyia White and Meloney Thames put up some impressive numbers for the Bobcats last year. White led the team with 16.8 points and 11.9 rebounds per game; she also chipped in with 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Thames finished with 16.2 points (only behind White) and 2.0 steals per game. Both White and Thames look to play major roles in what the Bobcats hope will be a successful 2022-23 campaign. McLennan Community College Highlassies
Unlike the other teams on this list, the Highlassies did not see much success last season. They finished the 2021-22 season with a 14-14 record and failed to make an appearance in the NJCAA National Tournament. However, their fortunes flipped for the better this past offseason.
McLennan Community College hired former Baylor associate head coach Bill Brock as the Highlassies’ next head coach. Brock helped shape Baylor into a Division I powerhouse, winning three national championships with the Bears in his 18 years there. Prior to his stint at Baylor, Brock coached at Grayson College for 13 years. He led Grayson to ten conference championships and two national tournament appearances. Brock’s experience may be exactly what the Highlassies need to bolster their basketball program.
Several key players for the Highlassies last year have either transferred or graduated. McLennan will have a handful of players returning, including Bailee St. Romain, who averaged 5.1 points per game in just nine games last year, and Jaydyn Bullard, who chipped in with 1.4 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
It may take some time for the Highlassies to gel next year, but with Coach Brock leading the way, the sky is the limit for McLennan this year and in the years to come.
Murray State College Aggies
Last season, the Aggies finished with a 27-6 record. After winning the South Central district championship, Murray State College was knocked out of the NJCAA Championship tournament in the first round. However, they will look to come back even stronger. The Aggies are already in an excellent position to improve upon last year’s campaign.
Compared to many of their competitors, Murray State College’s roster featured an exceptionally young core. All but two of the players on last year’s roster were freshmen. Some notable returners for the Aggies include Jumoke Adaramoye, who finished the 2021-22 season with a team-high 15 blocks; and Briana Knabe, who led the team with 3.9 assists and 2.5 steals per game.
Knabe also averaged 11.7 points per game, finishing only behind sophomores Alena Wilson and Alaijah Stewart. With fourth-year head coach Steve Lowe leading the way, the Aggies will look to capitalize on a new season with a now-experienced squad and embark on a successful 2022-23 campaign.
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