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KJCCC Women's Basketball Preview

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
The Butler Grizzlies women’s team celebrates winning back-to-back Region VI Championships.  They will once again be favored to win the Region this year.

View the DI KJCCC Men'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 Lady Red Devils

Last season: 8-22 (3-17 KJCCC)

Head coach: Rachel Janzen, 2nd season (8-22)

Top returner: Caleah Oliver—1.0 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 0.4 apg

Top newcomer: Addison Towe (Kiefer, OK)

After winning only eight games a year ago, second-year head coach, Rachel Janzen has cleaned house and only returns one player from last season’s team, Caleah Oliver. She appeared in 28 games and averaged a point per game. 

Janzen, who played and coached in Oklahoma, filled her roster with Oklahomans. Five of the freshman on this year’s team is from the Sooner state, as is Oliver. 

Barton Cougars

Last season: 18-16 (11-10)

Head coach: Alan Clark, 5th season (74-56)

Top Returner: Queen Ulabo—12.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.8 apg

Top Newcomer: Cora Anderson (Otis-Bison, KS)

The Cougars enter the season with two starters from a year ago, Queen Ulabo and Vanessa Oduah, returning from a team that won 18 games last season. Oduah, who sank the game winner to beat Hutchinson CC in the Region VI semifinals will be looked upon as a leader. The Cougars are not overly deep but their top 6-7 should be able to compete hard.

Ulabo and Oduah account for almost 25 points per game for a squad that averaged almost 69 points per game last year. Barton is expected to see freshman Cora Anderson see significant playing time. She stood out in scrimmages this season. She's smart and can run the floor. 

The Cougars are welcoming a handful of transfers in this season. Rebecca Leveque transfers from Cochise, where she appeared in 17 games last year. Marliah Johnson comes from NEO, where she appeared in nine games, averaging 3.6 points per game. Gabby Flute-Player transfers from Tohono O'odham, a NJCAA school in Arizona. She averaged 4.3 points in 30 games last season. 

Butler Grizzlies

Last season: 25-8 (15-5)

Head coach: Mike Helmer, 13th season (274-113)

Top Returner: Tamara Nard—16.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg

Top Newcomer: Paris Mullins (Walters State College)

Butler had won the back-to-back Region VI titles and were headed to Lubbock for a trip to the NJCAA National Tournament. They even had a sendoff event at Willie's but then COVID-19 happened.

"After missing out on the tournament last year, we are highly motivated to get back to that position," said Helmer. "I think the players who are back who didn't get that chance and the coaches are very motivated to make it back."

That's in the past and the Butler Grizzlies are once again looking forward to another trip back to Lubbock. They've gone the last two seasons and are trying to make it three-in-a-row under head coach Mike Helmer. 

They'll have some massive talent to help them out, too. 

Tamara Nard, the East Freshman of the Year last year returns to help Butler get back to Lubbock. The Sophomore really found her footing in the last third of the season, scoring 20 or more points in six of her final seven games. 

In February and March, Nard averaged 17.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game last season. Her being able to dial her game up another notch is why Butler ended the season on a 6-game winning streak.

Nard racked up the accolades last season as she was named NJCAA Honorable Mention All-American, KJCCC Freshman of the Year, KJCCC First-Team, Region VI First-Team and was named to the NJCAA WBCA All-Star Team and the Region VI Tournament All-Star team.

Circle's Carissa Beck will be back for the Grizzlies as well. She hit 41 percent from three-point range and will be a key rotational player for the Grizzlies once again. Add in Maddie Livingston, Miranda Givens and Riley Hett, the Grizzlies have a nice core of returning players from last year's team to help them get acclimated quickly.

While RaVon Nero and Camille Downs are gone, the Grizzlies welcome Cameren Downs (Fredericksburg, VA) and Kaylee Nero (Edmond, OK), sisters of the two former Grizzly superstars.

Helmer went out and secured transfers Skyla Knight (Arkansas-Little Rock) and Paris Mullins (Walters State College).

Knight saw limited action at Little Rock, averaging 12.0 minutes, 3.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.1 steals per game in seven games. While at Walters State, Mullins averaged 13.4 points, 7.3 rebounds in 24.7 minutes per game. She started 25 of 29 games. Mullins was a first team All-Conference player in the Tennessee CC Athletic Association.

All of this is why the coaches picked Butler to win the East division over Cowley once again. It shows why over the last two years, the Grizzlies have won 53 games and are eyeing more.

The Grizzlies received votes in the first poll of the season.

Cloud County Thunderbirds

Last season: 9-22 (4-16)

Head coach: Brett Erkenbrack, 31st season (681-315)

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

Top Newcomer: Sydney Keys (NEO A&M

The Thunderbirds are trying to get back to their winning ways and if someone can get them back to where they were a few years ago, it’s head coach Brett Erkenbrack. The coaches seem to think so, too. They’re picked fourth after finishing sixth last season.

They will have to do it without honorable mentions Haven Hamilton and LaKya Leslie, who transferred after making the list as freshman. 

The T-Birds are welcoming some transfers to the program, such as JUCO transfers in Sydney Keys (NEO A&M), Le'Yanna McGinnis (Johnson County), and Isalis Lee (SUNY Sullivan). Branda Boakye comes from Franklin Pierce. Lexi Jeffcoat, a 5-5 guard from Georgia comes from Young Harris, a couple of Division II schools.

They will have a few returners in Isabella Vazquez and Alyssa Castilleja from last year’s squad.

Coffeyville Red Ravens

Last season: 25-7 (14-6)

Head coach: Tony Turner, 2nd season (25-7)

Top Returner: Faith Simpson—18.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.1 spg

Top Newcomer: Nakia Cullom (Tulsa, OK)

Tony Turner was the co-winner for Coach of the Year and almost won his division. With the return of first team All-Conference player, Faith Simpson, the Red Ravens are looking to expand on that success. 

One thing Coffeyville did really well was win at home. They were 13-2 inside their friendly confines, with the losses coming to Butler and Seward County. Those losses are fine for most people. 

Simpson, who averaged 18.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season was a difference maker in what seemed like every game last season. She'll be earning a lot of attention from opposing defenses all season long. 

With Tynica Gilmore, who started 16 games last season, and Kailyn Lay returning, the Red Ravens will have three starters coming back on a team on a team who won 25 games last year.

Coach Turner has three stand out freshman that could make noise immediately. Amiya Josey, a 5-10 diverse player who can really attack and shoot. She can grab rebounds, penetrate and really put defenses on their heels. 

Dariaunna Carter of Highland Park (Topeka, KS) averaged 17 points as a sophomore and only found herself getting better. Then, there is 

Nakia Cullom comes from the tradition rich Will Rogers in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was the All Green Country Offensive Player of the Year where she averaged 14.5 points and 6.7 rebounds. Her team before COVID-19 cancelled the state tournament was the No. 1 team in the state in Class 5A, the state's second largest class. 

Colby Trojans

Last season: 19-13 (9-12)

Head coach: James Cole, 1st season

Top Returner: Not available

Top Newcomer: Not available

With the departure of Antwain Scales to Garden City, Colby is left to hit the reset button once again. Like the find of scales, Colby is hoping to find success with a coaching hire by hitting up the high school ranks. 

Enter James Cole. He joins the Trojans after coaching Independence High, where he helped the Lady Bulldogs go 11-10 last season in one year with Indy.

After losing everyone from last year's 19-win team, they'll have to do it with an entire new roster. They will welcome in some transfers, such as Dymitrea Finley (Dawson CC), Tiera Johnson (Garrett College GA), Kerrigan Johnson (Hinds (MS) CC), and Marveen Ross was at United Tribes Technical College last season but did not play for the T-Birds. 

Cowley Lady Tigers

Last season: 20-12 (9-11)

Head coach: Todd Clark, 17th season (378-14)

Top Returner: Seanna Boltz—14.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.1 spg

Top Newcomer: Martyna Kowalska (Tomianki, Poland)

After starting the season 12-0, consistency became the elusive item for the 2019-20 Cowley Tigers. They were 8-12 the rest of the way and 5-5 in their final 10. That was a young team and coach Todd Clark is happy to have a handful of sophomores on this year's team. 

The Lady Tigers return everyone of their top scorers from a year ago, including Seanna Boltz, the single game three-point record holder. She dropped 41 in a blowout win over Butler last year. Botlz was a second team All-Conference selection last year.

Then, they return Kalyne Danils and Sontrice Austin, who both averaged double digit points last season. Milean Fromming (7.9 ppg) and Torri Vang (7.2) both return as well. 

Picked second in the East Division behind perennial power, Butler, the Tigers may be the most experienced team returning this season. 

they went ahead and added Polish U-20 player, Martyna Kowalska to the roster to live in the post. 

Dodge City Conquistadors

Last season: 15-16 (10-11)

Head coach: Zach Loll, 17th season overall, 5th at DC3 (300-209)

Top Returner: Emery Mazy—4.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.5 spg

Top Newcomer: Ashley Hopkins (Memphis, TN)

Conq's head coach Zach Loll is as excited to coach basketball as any coach we spoke to and it's not just because he gets to coach. Coach Loll said this might be his most talented team during his tenure at Dodge City. 

The coaches agree as they were picked fourth in the stacked West Division. 

While there will be a young team, they return three players from last year's 15-win team with Emery Mazy, Xenia Cavalle and Madison Gissendanner. 

Coach Loll went into Oklahoma and pulled out Payton James (Sulpher, OK) and Allie Lance (Pauls Valley, OK). The two know each other well as the two high schools separate each other by 30 minutes. 

The addition of Ashley Hopkins, a 6-3 post player, who originally committed to Chipola before coming to Dodge City will be a welcomed presence inside. Then, Timyja Threlkeld and Celebria Peacock will be looked upon for some contributions.

Keimora Banks, a 5-5 guard from outside Chicago can be a firecracker. Banks in her senior year, flirted with a triple-double in a win, garnering 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and eight steals in a blowout win.

Garden City Broncbusters

Last season: 11-20 (6-15)

Head coach: Antwain Scales, 3rd overall, 1st at Garden City (22-39)

Top Returner: Donetria McGee—7.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg

Top Newcomer: Elizabeth Sherrill (Morgan State)

Garden City went out and snagged Antwain Scales, the head coach at Colby and one of the most successful high school coaches in the state of Kansas. 

Scales is a big fan of what Garden City is about he said in his introductory press conference. 

Scales has some nice returning talent with the reigning co-Defensive Player of the year in Donetria McGee. Airyanna Hall, who averaged 11.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last year. 

He brings Britney Mapang, a transfer from Colby to Garden City. She averaged 3.0 points in 16.1 minutes per game last year. 

The addition of Elizabeth Sherrill, who transferred from D1 Morgan State is an interesting piece as the Broncbusters try to right their ship. They are picked to finished sixth of eight teams in the West Division.

Hutchinson Blue Dragons

Last season: 28-4 (19-2)

Head coach: John Ontjes, 14th season (375-77)

Top Returner: Tor'e Alford—11.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg

Top Newcomer: Kayhla Adams (Minneapolis, MN)

Despite all of the success the Blue Dragons experienced last year, losing to Barton in the semifinals had to the toughest. None the less, the Blue Dragons earned a spot in the NJCAA National Tournament before it was canceled due to COVID-19. 

The Blue Dragons will be once again stacked as they are picked to win the West Division, which is nothing new to what they've done under head coach John Ontjes tenure.

Not very surprising, Hutch is the highest ranked KJCCC team in the preseason Top 25 at No. 13.

Returning to lead the show is Tor'e Alford, the sophomore from Derby, Kansas. She was easily the most consistent player for Hutch down the stretch. She can run the point, score and play defense. Aflord shot 40 percent on three-point shooting and hit almost 80 percent of her free throws. She started 24 of 25 games as well. 

As Abby Ogle graduated, the leadership role moves to Alford. 

Hutch is really excited by Kayhla Adams, a a 5-7 guard from Minnesota. She is that two-way player, a 3-and-D type that can really dictate a ball game. Her ability to penetrate and get through is a compliment to her athleticism and speed. 

Yana Grassity averaged 18.2 points as a junior at Highland Park before transferring to Topeka her senior year. 

As all JUCOs do, Hutch added in some transfers, such as Kahmille Booker redshirted at Arizona Western last season before transferring to Hutch. Kate Ogle transfers from Highland.

Independence Pirates

Last season: 17-11 (14-6)

Head coach: Jim Turgeon, 16th season, 1st at Indy CC (415-215)

Top Returner: Deairah Mays—11.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.3 spg

Top Newcomer: Rapuluchi Ayodele Ngorka (Madrid, Spain)

Independence is looking to replace the East Player of the Year, Brittany Reeves, as she's moved on to play ball at the next level. She was a first team All-American. It will help they return the Defensive Player of the Year, Deairah Mays. 

Mays was picked as the DPOY last year and she could contribute on both sides of the ball. She scored 11.1 points, while averaging 2.8 rebounds per game. They will try to reproduce those 17 wins, and maybe more, by adding an international flavor to the roster. The Pirates sport seven international players on their roster, almost doubling last year's count (4).

They will add in a couple of transfers, too. Desinty Cartwright (Highland CC), Jasmine Elder (Highland CC), Delani Harris (Kirkwood CC), and Mira Khan (Angelina College).

Rapuluchi Ayodele Ngorka, a 6-1 multi-positional player from Madrid, Spain will provid some size and athletiscm to the Pirates. 

Maisa Marcal returns for Indy, as she started 25 of 26 games last year. She averaged 10.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game last year. 

Neosho County Lady Panthers

Last season: 13-17 (6-14)

Head coach: JJ Davis, 8th season (75-142)

Top Returner: Briona Jensen—4.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.8 spg

Top Newcomer: Tanay Williams (Western Texas College)

The one thing Neosho is known for is their ability to take and hit the three and for the 2021 Lady Panthers, that will probably be the case, too. Head coach JJ Davis likes his players to be able to spread the floor and it really can level the playing field for them if the shots are falling.

Those shots will have to fall with a younger core this season as Neosho County only had three sophomores on this year's roster and only one played significant minutes last year, Briona Jensen. 

The 6-1 sophomore averaged 4.7 points in 16 minutes last season. She had her best game against Allen County last year, pulling down eight rebounds to go with her eight points on Feb. 1, 2020.

Tanay Williams was on the roster at Western Texas College last season but did not play a minute for the Westerners. However, the transfer is expected to make an immediate impact on what the Lady Panther do.

Neosho has made sure their roster has the Sunflower influence as eight players are from Kansas. 

Not to be outdone, the Lady Panthers have six from the state of Texas.

NW Kansas Tech Lady Mavericks

Last season: 9-20 (5-16)

Head coach: Brock Kimball, 3rd season (11-47)

Top Returner: Lauryn Vieira—11.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.3 spg

Top Newcomer: Chloe Andrew (Northwestern Ohio)

The largest issue for Northwest Kansas Tech may face to start the season is getting their players into the country. 

The NW Kansas Tech Lady Mavericks have seven international players on their roster and with the COVID-19 protocols, that will be what could slow them down to start the season.

The Lady Mavericks do return West Co-Defensive Player of the Year in Lauryn Vieira. She averaged almost 12 points per game last season and a little over two steals per game. She was a difference maker when it mattered. 

In his third season Tech's head coach, Brock Kimball, is hoping for some improvement over last year's nine-win season. They've added Chloe Andrew, a 5-9 guard. She averaged 4.4 points, 0.7 rebounds, and had 25 assists in 14 minutes per game at Northwestern Ohio, a Division II school.

Overall, Tech returns three players from last year's team, including Vieira. They also have Aminata Seck, who was fifth in scoring on the team last year with 7.7 points per game, and Yverline Da Saliva, a post player from Switzerland. 

Jenyff Moura transfers to NW Kansas Tech from Odessa College, where she averaged 2.9 points per agme in 30 appearances last year. 

Pratt Beavers

Last season: 17-14 (11-10)

Head coach: Steven Kenner, 4th overall, first at Pratt (48-16)

Top Returner: Jordan Mathis—10.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 spg

Top Newcomer: Christy Wiebe (South Gray, KS)

Steven Kenner is known for turning programs around. He turned around Southeast Illinois and now has his eyes set on doing the same at Pratt. 

When talking to opposing coaches, they aren't sure what Pratt has and that's a large reason why the Beavers find themselves picked second-to-last in the West Division preseason order of finish.

Usually with new head coaches, they clean out the roster and bring in their own style of players. Not Kenner. He kept four of the six freshman from last year's team. 

It helps that one of those freshman is now sophomore Jordan Mathis, last year's leading scorer. She averaged 10.4 points per game for the Beavers. She did miss the homestretch of games due to an injury but is expected to be back.

The rest of the returning players did not play significant minutes last year and may be asked to take on large roles this season. 

With only 12 players rostered this season, Kenner went out and made sure it had Kansas flavor. Of the seven added freshman, four are from the state of Kansas. Three of them are from the Wichita area.

Coach Kenner is very excited about Christy Wiebe (South Gray, KS), the freshman averaged 15.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and three assists per game as a senior. 

Seward County Lady Saints

Last season: 25-7 (18-3)

Head coach: Todd Ciochetto, 7th overall, first at Seward County (153-46)

Top Returner: Gina Ballesteros—3.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.6 apg

Top Newcomer: Sierra Morrow (North Iowa Area CC)

New coach? Same problem for those in the Jayhawk Conference when it comes to Seward County. 

The biggest difference will be the style of play new head coach Todd Ciochetto brings to Liberal. His Lady Saints will be a fast paced team that will shoot a lot of 3s and push teams. 

He joined Seward County after previous head coach Austin Mefford resigned to take the same position at New Mexico JC, another NJCAA Powerhouse program. During his time at Northern Iowa Area CC, he won 153 games in only six seasons. 

Before COVID canceled the National tournaments, NIACC was No. 1 in Division II and the No. 1 seed in the national Tournament. He was the Division II National Coach of the Year by multiple publications. 

Seward County will be without their top two leading scorers from last year in Tianna Johnson (first team All-Conference) and Leilani Augmon, who both transferred to New Mexico JC with Mefford. Though, Ciochetto brought some fire power with him to replace the cupboard.

Ciochetto brings Sierra Morrow, Sierra Lynch and Sanna Smith with him from NIACC. Sierra Morrow may be the biggest name to come to Seward from NIACC. She averaged 15.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game last season. She was a DII second team All-American last season as a freshman.

In all, five players transferred from NIACC to Seward County.

The Lady Saints are really excited about freshmen Delma Zita, Madina Camara and Hulda Joaquim. The Minnesota influence which can be seen in the previous NIACC rosters is very evident in this year's Lady Saints roster. 

Seward County received votes in the NJCAA Preseason Top 25.

Coach's Predicted Order of Finish

East Division

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

West Division

  1. Hutchinson Community College
  2. Seward County Community College
  3. Barton Community College
  4. Dodge City Community College
  5. Colby 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.