2021 KJCCC Men's Basketball Preview

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
The Cowley Tigers and the Hutchinson Blue Dragons will be once again two of the top teams in the Jayhawk Conference.

View the DI KJCCC Women's Preview here.

The 2020... erm 2021 KJCCC Basketball season is set to kickoff and for some teams, it already has. While the Jayhawk Conference is the toughest basketball conference in the nation, we felt it was respectable to breakdown every team heading into the season. 

The KJCCC has put out guidelines regarding on COVID-19 and how to handle it. 

Currently, there are no fans allowed in attendance through Feb. 5. The League will re-assess this at a later date and some schools, such as the Butler Grizzlies, have said it will be season ticket holders only. 

To note: Some previews are significantly shorter than others as some coaches and schools chose not to participate.

All teams listed alphabetically.

Allen Red Devils

Last season: 16-15 (10-10)

Head coach: Andy Shaw, ninth season (112-136)

Top returner: Shaikim Jenks—6.4 ppg; 1.6 rpg; 2.1 apg.

Top newcomer: Amadou Traore (Holmes CC (MS)

The Allen Red Devils rode an 11-game winning streak last season and entered the rankings. Often a team many can probably circle as a win has turned into more of a fight. They knocked off Hutch last season when they were No. 1, showcasing how good they can be. 

The Red Devils were sixth nationally getting to the free throw line a season ago. They were in the top third in percentages, making it a real advantage for Coach Shaw and Co. 

They'll have to replace their top four scorers from last season, including four who started the most games.

Shaikim Jenks is the leading returner scorer from last season and will be looked upon as a leader for this season. A year ago, he averaged 6.4 points and 2.1 assists per game. 

Cedric Rollerson, a guard out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma will be looked for some scoring as well. Rollerson did score a career high 18 points in a win over Garden City last year.

Amadou Traore transfers in from Holmes Community College in Mississippi and should be a nice presence inside. 

With only five sophomores on the squad this season, this may be a trial by fire season, as they were picked fifth out of seven teams in the East division.

Barton Cougars

Last season: 23-9 (14-7)

Head coach: Craig Fletchall, 16th season, 21st overall (450-193)

Top Returner: Jaheim Holden—15.0 ppg, 2.8 pg, 4.8 apg.

Top Newcomer: Willie Lapoole, (Bossier Parrish CC (LA))

Two things are normal when it comes to Barton basketball: Craig Fletchall and winning. The two are synonymous with one another and Jahiem Holden is one that you fully expect to make sure that happens again. 

Holden returns to lead the Cougars back to the Region VI tournament and maybe beyond. He averaged 15.0 points last year and 4.8 assists and was left off any postseason recognition. 

Justin Harmon, a 6-4 guard from Chicago will pick up a lot that Mavrick Gilyard and Diovonte Caldwell left behind. 

With additions like Asanti Price and Willie Lapoole, the battle for minutes will be tough. Price averaged 2.4 points per game in 15 games while at Georgia Tech last season. Lapoole spent last year at Bossier Parish CC, a team in Region 14. Lapoole averaged 15.4 points per game in 15 games for Bossier Parish last season.

Add in El Dorado’s Jarin Koehler who can hit form deep, the Cougars are once again expected to compete for their divisional side. 

Butler Grizzlies

Last season: 25-8 (15-5)

Head coach: Kyle Fisher, second season (25-8)

Top Returner: Shawn Hopkins— 11.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.0 apg

Top Newcomer: Treylon Paine (Little Rock, Ark.)

Last season, the Butler Grizzlies exceeded expectations by winning 25 games and were seconds away from winning the Region VI in Kyle Fisher's first year as head coach. 

They're ready for more.

With so many players leaving for Division I schools last year, the Grizzlies had to refill the cupboard and do it quick as Shawn Hopkins is really the only returning player that saw significant minutes from last year's team. 

Hopkins averaged 11.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. He had the ability to heat up and force teams to show him real attention, making it easier on his teammates. This season, he could be looked upon as more of a primary role. 

The Grizzlies are excited about their depth and aren't afraid to try different lineups, the freshman from Little Rock, Arkansas, Treylon Payne seems to be a stand out newcomer out of the batch. He was a first team All-Arkansas as a senior. Ranked as a two-star, the 6-0 guard can really get up and go. His motor is high and those who were asked, talked about his basketball IQ being one of his top assets. 

The Grizzlies led the NJCAA in made free throws last year. Their ability to get to the line, continually gave them the lift over their opponents. In their overtime win over Colby in the Region VI tournament, the Grizzlies shot 29 free throws, making 22.

One of those players who may help Butler get to the line will be Keyon Thomas, a transfer from Emporia State. The sophomore led Butler in scoring during their scrimmages. In his only year at Emporia State, he averaged 12.0 points per game on 48 percent shooting, including 47.1 percent from three. He averaged 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals.

Butler will welcome in Shae Mitchell, a transfer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As a freshman, he averaged 2.2 points and 0.9 rebounds per game in 16 games. 

Houston Baptist transfer Noah Thomasson is expected to see significant minutes for Butler. He's an athletic point guard who can make you pay on either side of the ball. Thomasson appeared in 23 games for Houston Baptist, averaging 4.2 points and 1.1 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game. HE shot over 50 percent from the field in those games and 44 percent from three. 

Other players to watch out for are Sam Ward, who comes back to Butler from Illinois-Chicago, a Division I school. He played for Butler in 2018-19 and averaged 3.7 points in 10.7 minutes per game.

Also, DeLadris Green could be a big time player for Butler. He transferred from Ranger College in Texas, where they were No. 3 in the final NJCAA rankings last year. He averaged 3.9 points per game last year for Ranger. 

Karrington Davis joins Butler from Southern Illinois. He played at Nebraska. While at SIU, he averaged 3.0 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. 

In all, Butler will have six players from the state of Kansas on their roster, up two from last year's team. 

Cloud County Thunderbirds

Last season: 10-21 (3-17)

Head coach: Jordan Altman, fourth season (32-60)

Top Returner: Dyelan Reed—7.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.2 spg

Top Newcomer: Savian Edwards (Kansas Wesleyan)

It was not the year coach Jordan Altman wanted coming off a 10-win season and picked last in their division this year. The T-Birds will be looking to improve as they have added a savvy player like Savian Edwards, who’s transferring from Kansas Wesleyan, and maybe they’re liking their odds heading into this season.

The Thunderbirds will hopefully see an improvement on their shooting percentages, as they were ranked 168th (FG percentage) and 169th (3-point percentage), respectively. The 17.9 turnovers per game were in the bottom 15 in the nation last season. 

Atlman cleaned house after last year's season. Only two players return from last year's squad and Dyelan Reed is the leading returning scorer at 7.6 points per game. David Acosta, who played sparingly returns, too.

There is still an international flavor for Cloud County, as they tout four international players who could log serious minutes, including returning big man, Acosta. 

The local flavor is back a bit on the roster, too. They have six Kansas kids on the roster, compared to four last year. It's the most they've had since 2016-17 team, when they had eight players.

That was also the last time Cloud City won 20 games.

Coffeyville Red Ravens

Last season: 26-8 (14-6)

Head coach: Jay Herkelman, 25th season (634-185)

Top Returner: Tylor Perry—11.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.4 apg

Top Newcomer: Kevaughn Ellis (redshirt, Florida Atlantic)

You know Coffeyville head coach Jay Herkelman will have his team ready to defend another Region VI crown and they’ll return Tylor Perry off last year’s team to do it. The thing about NJCAA ball is it’s always a rebuilding tool, even if you return a plethora of players from the previous year and that’s more evident in basketball.

Coffeyville is ranked No. 10 in the NJCAA preseason Top 25.

Herkelman has done a great job over his career, especially over the last five years of turning his team into a juggernaut. Kevaughn Ellis will have an immediate impact for the Red Ravens after redshirting last season. He averaged 2.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in eight games for Florida Atlantic in 2018-19. 

Coffeyville is picked by the coaches to win the East Division once again. After finishing third last season, behind Cowley and Butler, it may be a return to the top for the Red Ravens.

They'll need Perry to step up, as they lose Manny Crump and Meikkel Murray to division I schools. While people can be replaced, it is their production and energy that are sometimes hard to replicate.

Perry missed out on postseason accolades but don't ask him that, I'm sure he's biding his time and expecting some this season. He returns as the top scorer from last year's team and will fix nicely with the handful of redshirted players from last year that will see action.

Colby Trojans

Last season: 27-5 (18-3)

Head coach: Rusty Elmore, second season (27-5)

Top Returner: Domonic Harvey— 11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.8 bpg

Top Newcomer: Tyrone Marshall (Nashville, Tenn.)

The Trojans had a banner year last season, winning the West division and doing it on the back of the West Player of the Year and All-American, Demarcus Sharp. 

Well, Sharp is gone and head coach Rusty Elmore is left to try and keep this momentum going as his first year at the helm helped rejuvenate the program that was once a cellar dweller in the league. 

The Trojans have some talent returning so the cupboard isn't bare. They will see Dominic Harvey and Matt McFarlane return to action. Both were honorable mention all-conference last season.

Harvey's minutes may have kept him from averaging a double-double season. That didn't stop him from leading the KJCCC in field goal percentages at 71.8 percent per game.

McFarlane is the same. The minutes held him back a bit, too. The 6-10 sophomore will be one of the league leaders in blocks. He led the league last year with 1.8 blocks per game. 

Elmore picked up a steal, the runner-up for Mr. Basketball in the state of Tennessee, in Tyrone Marshall. He’s a 6-8 forward, who Elmore seems really high on. 

Cowley Tigers

Last season: 26-6 (17-3)

Head coach: Tommy DeSalme, 12th season (215-138)

Top Returner: Dalen Ridgnal—16.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 1.7 spg

Top Newcomer: Clarence King (Hutchinson Community College)

Coach Tommy DeSalme has the Tigers playing this wild, frantic pace and for a majority of the season it was the best thing in JUCO basketball. However, they lost three of their final four games. Cowley still led the nation in scoring at 109.8 points per game. 

The return Dalen Ridgnal from last year's East Championship. He was the East Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and third-team All-American. The accolades are nice but now they'll have to repeat it. 

Cowley will have Cevin Clark and Mikel Henderson back, both were Honorable Mention All-Conference players last season. Henderson is a high-energy player that is not afraid to take big shots and help his team. 

They will add Clarence King, who transferred from Hutch. He averaged 6.9 points for the Blue Dragons in 31 minutes per game last season. 

Cowley will continue to live and die by the three. They led the nation in 3-point makes; second in attempts and were above the national average in percentage makes. The Tigers made 36 percent in wins and 33 percent in loses. While that seems negligible at this point, that accounts for almost 12 missed points per game.

The Tigers are ranked 24th in the first preseason Top 25.

Dodge City Conquistadors

Last season: 11-20 (3-18)

Head coach: Jake Williams, first season.

Top Returner: Quindarius Thomas—12.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg

Top Newcomer: Walyn Napper (College of Central Florida)

Jake Williams has done himself some favors in his first season, getting transfer Walyn Napper, a first team All-American to transfer from College of Central Florida. Napper averaged 16.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game for Central Florida as they won 25 games.

Williams comes to Dodge City by way of USC Salkehatchie, where he helped the Indians reach the NJCAA Tournament before it was postponed due to COVID-19. During his time at USC Salkehatchie, Williams reach the Region Championship each of his three seasons at USC Salkehatchie.

The Conqs only return Quindarius Thomas from last year's team that only won 11 games. He was an honorable mention in the conference last season.

Those at DC3 are very excited to see what Dylan Gory, a 7-0 center from Paris France can do for the Conqs. He should be an immediate presence inside. 

All of this has paid off as the Conqs are picked to finish second in the West, only behind Hutchinson.

Garden City Broncbusters

Last season: 9-22 (3-18)

Head coach: Cole Dewey, first season.

Top Returner: Mason Osborne—4.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.8 apg

Top Newcomer: Rodney Lewis Jr. (Broward College (FL))

Cole Dewey has some work to turn around the Broncbusters who dropped 22 games last season. He’s done it by injecting a bunch of transfers into the program from Jasman Sangha and JJ Watson to Rodney Lewis, who came from Broward College, averaging 13.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. 

KJ Marshall (Pitt) and Khadim Samb (Idaho) will be a nice division I talent injected into the Broncbusters. Marshall only played in six games as a walk on at Pittsburgh and Samb averaged 6.0 points per game in 21 appearances at Idaho.

Dewey helped turn around Otero, winning 45 games over the last two seasons and getting to as high as No. 5 in the nation last season. He was an assistant one time at Garden City in 2013-14.

Dewey was able to bring two transfers with him from Otero, in Chase Hettinger and Jaduhkiss Soto. 

In all, seven of the 14 on the roster for the Broncbusters are transfers from another school. 

Hutchinson Blue Dragons

Last season: 23-9 (13-8)

Head coach: Steve Eck, 12th at Hutch, 22nd overall (631-122)

Top Returner: Josh Baker—13.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.4 spg

Top Newcomer: Isaiah Bujdoso (Loyala (IL) University)

An early exit in the Region VI tournament is not like most Steve Eck teams. They were young and went through some lumps, It was the most losses (9) for a Hutch team since before Eck took over. 

It feels weird to say the Blue Dragons haven't won Region VI since 2014-15 and haven't won a regular season crown since the 2016-17 season. To point this out only shows how dominant they have been over the last 11 seasons.

All eyes point to the future as the Blue Dragons are once again poised to win the West division and have loaded up to do so. 

They return Josh Baker, the West Freshman of the Year, who could shoot the three and averaged 13.7 points per game last year. He is one of two starters returning from last year's 23-win team. Sophomore guard Majok Kuath is the other one. He averaged 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He shot 62.1 percent from the field.

Jaden Okon returns for the Fighting Ecks. He played in 31 games last season, averaging 5.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.

Look for Isaiah Bujdoso to be an insert into the starting lineup for Hutch. He transferred from Loyola in Chicago. Yes, that team who made noise in the NCAA Tournament a few seasons ago. 

The Blue Dragons are ranked No. 17 to start the season.

Independence Pirates

Last season: 23-9 (13-7)

Head coach: Bill Morosco, second season (23-9)

Top Returner: Tim Dalger—11.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.1 spg

Top Newcomer: Madison Monroe (Oakland University (MI))

After winning 23 games last season, head coach Bill Morosco will look to build upon that success but will have to do it with an influx of youth as they graduated nine players, including six who went on to play at the next level. So, the youth will have to step up for the Pirates. 

The Pirates may rely on Oakland U. transfer Madison Monroe. The 6-4 Charlotte native averaged 2.6 points per game for the Golden Grizzlies last season in 15 games. He had a career high 10 points on multiple occasions last season. 

Look for them to lean on Tim Dalger, who signed to play at the University of Tulsa next season. The 6-7 wing player averaged 11.6 points and 6.8 rebounds last season and can really get up and down the court with his athleticism. 

Much like their football team, the Pirates don't stay in state to recruit very often. Only one Kansas product is on their 2020-21 roster, Ty Butner. He last played at Wichita North in 2018.

Neosho County Panthers

Last season: 12-20 (6-14)

Head coach: Jeremy Coombs, 14th season (219-189)

Top Returner: Daniel Titus—11.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.1 spg

Top Newcomer: Malik Carson (Upper Marlboro, MD)

Neosho put the fear into some folks last year, making it to the Region VI tournament in Dodge City. Unfortunately their run was curt short but they still showed they had toughness to be there. 

Jeremy Coombs already knew they did. 

Coombs heads into his 14th season as the winningest coach in school history and is ready to take on another challenge, despite his team picked second-to-last in their division. 

Daniel Titus, a 6-8 win from Australia returns as one of the few returning. Titus averaged 7.6 poings, 4.1 rebounds in 31 games last season.  

Myron Washington transfers in from Dodge City CC. He averaged 5.5 points per game for the Conqs as their new coach cleaned house and Washington wound up playing for Coombs. 

Deondre Buggage, Malik Carson and Cougar Downing are three freshman Coach Coombs is excited to see compete. De'Antray Hughes, a sophomore transfer from Baton Rouge CC will see some playing time, too.

NW Kansas Tech Mavericks

Last season: 4-24 (2-19)

Head coach: Nate Padia, third season (19-41)

Top Returner: Keyshawn Kennedy—6.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 spg

Top Newcomer: Brandon Kabuya (Garges les Gonesse, France)

It was only a couple of seasons ago Northwest Kansas Tech found themselves with an 20-win season and then another year they knocked off Cowley to advance to the quarterfinals of the Region VI Tournament where they narrowly missed out on a chance at beating Barton.

The Mavericks would like to get back to those markers and they would like to forget last season.

Keyshawn Kennedy is the top returning player for the Mavericks, the sophomore from Bronx, NY will be a leader and he scored a career high 18 points in a close game against Barton in February last season. He would go onto score in double figures in three of Tech's final five games last season. 

One thing when you talk to coach Padia is how he mentions his players willingness to be coached and at the collegiate level, that can go far. You have players who buy-in and that can lead you to a few extra wins. 

Also, one to watch for will be Brandon Kabuya. Playing the U-21 league in France, Kabuya shot 38.7 percent from three and averaged 4.0 points per game.

Padia will also welcome in Malik Lacewell, a transfer from St. Bonaventure. He only appeared in three games as a freshman for the Bonnies but could be seen as a player for the Mavericks. 

Erik Grajales transfers from Chattanooga State (TN) to join the Mavericks. He played in 22 games last year for CSCC and scored 4.1 points and grabbed 4.6 rebounds per game. 

Pratt Beavers

Last season: 19-12 (13-8)

Head coach: Sean Flynn, third season (34-31)

Top Returner: Carlos Montiel—11.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.1 spg

Top Newcomer: Malcolm Whitlow (Eckerd College (FL))

The expectations are not high for the Pratt Beavers, as they are picked second to last in the West division. Under Sean Flynn, the Beavers would like to repeat what they did last year but coaches don't seem too sure of their success.

The Beavers will look to Carlos Montiel as the glue who holds the team together. Motiel started 19 games last year and averaged 1.8 points per game last year. 

They will welcome in Malcom Whitlow from Division II Eckerd College into Pratt. He averaged 12.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He had a career high 32 points last year, so Whitlow can fill it up when he needs to.

Seward County Saints

Last season: 17-14 (10-11)

Head coach: Sean Flynn, third season (34-31)

Top Returner: Branton McCrary—11.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 spg

Top Newcomer: Romon Douglas-Watkins (Otero JC)

Sautter, is entering his fourth year as the head coach of the Saints. Only two years ago, he led the Saints the NJCAA Tournament, while capturing the league and region titles. He's ready to get back to that success.

His team this season will be young and without practices being more readily available as they have been in past seasons, the growth by fire will be more important this season. The expectations are there but they understand there will be some growing pains. 

The Saints will be led by returning second team All-Conference selection, Brandon McCrary. The Sophomore from Little Rock battled through injuries to help Seward last season and had offseason surgery.

Sautter will welcome in Ramon Douglas-Watkins. He transfers from Otero Junior College in Colorado. He averaged 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season.

There are other transfers from other junior colleges, such as Michael Rivera (NEO), Donyae Molett (Chaffey CA), 

They also return players like Stephen Takyi, Samuel Henderson and Greg Johnson from last season. Johnson averaged 9.3 points per game last season.

The Saints have only one Kansas product on their roster this season, Jaylen Henderson, from Wichita West. 

Coach's Predicted Order of Finish

East Division

  1. Coffeyville Community College
  2. Cowley Community College
  3. Butler Community College
  4. Independence Community College
  5. Allen Community College
  6. Neosho County Community College
  7. Cloud County Community College

West Division

  1. Hutchinson Community College
  2. Dodge City Community College
  3. Colby Community Community College
  4. Seward County Community College
  5. Barton Community College
  6. Garden City Community College
  7. Pratt Community College
  8. Northwest Kansas Technical College

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.