For the first time since the 2018-19 season, NJCAA D2 women’s basketball completed a season. Kirkwood Community College won their eighth national championship, going an incredibly impressive 36-1.
Additional powerhouses continued to dominate while other teams rose and made unexpected noise. The upcoming season should bring more excitement, as multiple squads return key role players.
Here’s “a way too early” look at a possible 2022 - 2023 top 10 and a few others who might surprise.
1. Johnson County Community College
In Overland Park, Kansas, Johnson County Community College has always been a dominant force on the hardwood. That continued in the 2021-22 season, where they posted a 34-2 record, falling in the second round of the national tournament. While their leading scorer Kierra Prim is off to Division-I Central Arkansas, they will return Nariyah Simmons who was a burgeoning star for JCCC. Simmons was third in scoring for JCCC, averaging 9.8 PPG, starting all but one game for the Cavaliers. JCCC has a strong recent history of success with coach Ben Conrad. Under his leadership, Conrad has built this program to be among the best in the nation. The three-time National Coach of the Year has led his team to the national championship game three times in the last seven years. He will look to continue that success and seek his second national championship next season.
2. Labette Community College
Labette Community College had a strong season a year ago, finishing with a 24-5 record. They fell in the Region 6 Tournament Championship to Johnson County Community College. Of their five losses on the year, three were to JCCC (only one of the three losses was greater than 10 points). Labette will return three of their top six scorers, including Janiya Reed. In 24 games this season, Reed had 9.9 PPG on 45% shooting from the field. Head coach Mitch Rolls’ team is expected to finish behind JCCC this upcoming year, but he will hope to change the narrative to win Region 6.
3. Iowa Western Community College
Not many teams in this ranking can top the talent returning to Iowa Western Community College. Six of Iowa Western’s eight leading scorers from last year will be back, including leading scorer Ndidiamaka Ndukwe. In 29 games, Ndukwe averaged 14.4 PPG. Three-point specialist Aleshia Jones will also be back with her 36.8% three-point percentage and 13.7 PPG. Iowa Western lost three of their first five games of the season, but turned it around immediately before falling in the Region 11 Tournament Championship against Kirkwood Community College. They will easily be one of the teams to beat this upcoming season.
4. Morton College
Morton College became an unbelievable story last season, winning 26 straight games from November until the National Championship. While they lose their best two players, they return a lot of talent. Mia Simpson averaged 12 PPG off the bench for Morton, as she will try to lead her team back to the national title this upcoming year. Guards Jalyssa Carrasco and Gianine Boado will return as well, two players who logged important minutes a season ago.
Head coach Jason Nichols’ first year at Morton was simply incredible. Nichols took over as athletic director and women’s basketball coach and immediately took his program to the national tournament for the first time, going as far as the national title game. This is a young, fresh team that will only get better under Nichols’ leadership. This will be a program to watch for a long time.
5. Bryant and Stratton College (WI)
The Bobcats went 27-5 in the 2021-22 season, making it all the way to the Final Four before being outmatched in the national semifinal and 3rd place game. Bryant and Stratton College’s leading scorer and best player La’Janique Perry-Ellis was the only player who scored double-digits per game. Out of the 12 rostered players, nine were freshmen. Myisha Malone and Teya Maas will return to the lineup to lead the team in 2022. Maas shot 57.1% from the field. Bryant and Stratton College will be one of the most experienced teams heading into next season. Head coach Brandon Siska will look to use that to his advantage in the 2022-23 season.
6. Wake Technical Community College
The Wake Tech Eagles were one of the best teams in the country all season long before losing three consecutive games to end their run. They fell in the Region 10 Southeast District Championship, then lost back-to-back games in the NJCAA D2 National Tournament to get eliminated. While they lose Charbreanna Vann, who averaged 21.6 PPG last season, the Eagles return three integral parts of their rotation with Jen’lea Nichols, Ikaya Ndango and Saidah Muhammad. Head coach Alison Beasley has been one of the best young coaches, not only in NJCAA D2 basketball, but in all of college basketball since she took over in 2018. She looks to continue that success and build her young program next season.
7. Mesa Community College
One of the most storied programs in NJCAA D2 college basketball, the Thunderbirds struggled at times last season. They eventually figured things out to advance to the national tournament, but they ultimately fell to Johnson County Community College. This upcoming season Mykah Anderson is expected to be among the best players in the country, after averaging 10.5 PPG on 34.4% shooting. The Thunderbirds will also return Zari Watkins and Taylor Tiulana, two freshmen who played substantial minutes for Mesa Community College a year ago. Being a team with experience heading into this season, Mesa will be a competitive team vying for the top of the rankings next season.
8. Niagara County Community College
Niagara County Community College had a roster full of freshmen outside of Alaina Forbes. Gabrielle McDuffie led the Thunder Wolves with 15.4 PPG, shooting an elite 43.8% from the field. Guards Kiya Marquez and Aichata Ballo will be essential for NCCC this upcoming year being an experienced tandem together, as that is not too common with NJCAA D2 WBB. Head coach Nate Beutel’s team will have high expectations heading into this upcoming season.
9. Lake Land College
Lake Land College’s top three scorers from a year ago were all freshmen, Lexi Niebrugge, Joslynn Spears and Tayler Barry. While Lake Land fell in the Region 24 Semifinal Game in an intense, close battle with Illinois Central College, they will look to bounce back strongly and make a run at the national tournament in the 2022-23 season. David Johnson will be entering his 25th season as head coach, seeking his second national championship this upcoming season after bringing home the 2021 National Championship.
10. Kirkwood Community College
Coming off their national championship this past season, the Kirkwood Community College Eagles will be back - as they always are - in the hunt for another national title. They have won eight NJCAA National Championships, including two in the last five years, and are always prepared to reload each season.
While their top seven scorers have all graduated, they had five freshmen who got minutes last season. Jada Devine played in all 37 games a year ago, averaging 5.7 PPG. She is expected to lead the Eagles in the 2022-23 season. Under head coach Kim Muhl, entering his 34th season, Kirkwood is always competitive, and will continue to be in this upcoming season.
Some Other Teams To Watch
Lincoln Land Community College
Lincoln Land benefited mightily by having Emily Meidel on their roster each of the last two seasons, as the back-to-back first team NJCAA All-American has transferred to play Division-I basketball at Eastern Illinois. Returning for LLCC will be Addison Scarlette, as the sophomore averaged 7.5 PPG in 14.4 minutes per game a year ago. What benefits the Loggers so much is their depth, as every rostered player averaged at least three minutes per game last year.
North Arkansas returns multiple key players from last year's 22-4 team, including Kamryn Sutterfield, Abbey Linville and Haley Gentry, all who averaged at least five points–per-game. North Arkansas’ offense was prolific, scoring 73.7 points per game, with 15.6 assists per game as well. North Arkansas, coming off of an undefeated conference season, will look to return and be dominant yet again in conference play.
North Central Missouri College
North Central Missouri College had a strong season a year ago, posting a 26-7 record, dominating at home with a 17-1 record. While NCMC has graduated a lot of players from last years roster, they do bring back forward Maci Moore (11.8 PPG) and Jordyn Gray (33 games, 3.7 PPG)
Union County College
The Union County College Owls were a force in conference play a year ago, playing to a perfect 11-0 record. While they dominated in the posts, their three point struggles continued throughout the entire season. The Owls return their point guard Nia Mallette who averaged 12.5 PPG in her freshman year.
Parkland College had a strong season before losing five of their last six games to end the year. Parkland returns Kanzey Decker who scored 6.7 PPG along with Brook Runge and Emily Miller, both who appeared in at least 10 games. Parkland shot 34.6% from the three a year ago. If they are able to stay strong from beyond the arc like they were at the beginning of the season, Parkland could be a force to reckon with as the year goes on.
All five of these teams could easily make an argument to be within the top 10. With all five bringing back key players after a successful season, expect them to be right back in the conversation this upcoming year.
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