It’s a fun time of the year for me. High school state tournaments, McDonald’s All American Game, Division 1 conference tournaments and March Madness looming, but flying under the radar are the JUCO conference tournaments. I spent the day in my hometown of Tyler, Texas to catch some Region XIV JUCO ball and good basketball was being played.
Navarro College edged Tyler Junior College 76-74 following a put-back dunk prior to the last buzzer. Paris JC connected on a deep three before the horn in a 61-60 win vs Coastal Bend College.
The evening/night cap started off with Bossier Parish completing a comeback in the second half to knock out Angelina in overtime. Kilgore College had to fight off a relentless Lamar State College to advance to the second round.
Braelon Bush, 5’8 SO PG, Navarro College: A Houston native and a transfer from McNeese State, Bush was on fire in the second half vs TJC. Connected on triples coming off ball screens and was a creator and scorer in transition due to his speed with the ball and quick decision making. Bush finished with 25 points on 64% shooting.
Addarin Scott, 6’9 SO PF/C, Navarro College: Scott has made real strides since my time watching him at Dallas Carter High School. The game has slowed down for him and he’s able to show more of a skillset on the offensive end. Capable shooter from 15-feet in and although he missed the 3-point attempt, the mechanics looked fine. He rebounded at a high rate, finished vs length and ultimately got the go-ahead bucket for the Bulldogs with two seconds left to advance to the second round. Scott ended the game with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Corey Camper, 6’5 SO Guard, Tyler Junior College: A big guard out of Arkansas, Corey utilized his size to generate points on drive attempts. He applied rim pressure but when the defense played heavy off-ball help, he exhibited a pull-up game with great lift when he shoots. Camper finished the game with 20 points, 8 rebounds & 4 assists.
Marcus Rigsby Jr, 6’3 RS FR Guard, Tyler Junior College: A strong built guard that has a knack for scoring the ball. A combo with fairly long arms, Rigsby displayed a clean release when shooting off the dribble and utilizes his broad frame to create space on drives. Marcus concluded with 20 points on 73 percent shooting.
Ikechukwu Nwaobi, 6’5 FR Wing-Forward, Coastal Bend College: A long-armed wing that plays with a high motor. Nwaobi was very active on the offensive glass (4 off. rebounds) and generated second chance points for his team. I liked his ability to put the ball on the floor, get to the paint and his nose for the ball. 12 points & 9 rebounds for Nwaobi.
Trey Swazer, 6’3 FR Wing – Paris Junior College: Of the power-wing prototype. At 6’3 with plus length and a strong build, Swazer is capable of guarding four positions at this level. High motor wing that rebounds well for size, can switch on defense and thrives as a slasher on offense. Trey notched a 10-point, 12 rebound double–double in the Dragon’s win on Tuesday.
Jaylen Wysinger, 6’1 SO PG – Paris Junior College: A skilled guard that showed nice shooting accuracy and passer feel. Crafty handle, a steady set-up pg that scores it within the flow of the offense. Jaylen played a big part in Paris’ win with 13 points & 5 assists.
Kendrick Delahoussaye, 6’0 SO PG – Bossier Parish CC: An attacking guard that played a large part in Bossier’s comeback win vs Angelina. Competed on both ends and relentlessly attacked the rim and found himself at the foul-line eight times. 18 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals for Delahoussaye.
Christian Caldwell, 6’6 SO Wing – Bossier Parish CC: A pogo-stick athlete that finishes & rebounds above the rim. Caldwell lived in the free throw line, attempting 11 versus Angelina. More than an athlete, however, Caldwell showed fluidity and great lift when he attempted a mid-range jumper. 12 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals for Caldwell.
Patrick Johnson, 6’2 FR PG – Angelina College: The pg out of Compton, CA impressed me with his ability to impact the game outside of scoring. Rebounds well for a point guard that allows him to push tempo and find his open teammate early in transition. A capable shooter as well that connects when his feet are set. 7 points, 5 assists and 9 rebounds for Patrick.
Avontez Ledet, 6’2 SO Guard – Lamar State College: A sniper from deep. Ledet is a threat shooting the ball off the catch, on the move and even after attacking a closeout. Liked the efficiency he demonstrated on Tuesday in a 13 point, 7 rebound performance on 75 percent shooting from three.
Daveon Thomas, 6’1 SO PG – Kilgore College: A sturdy built, athletic guard that can score in an array of ways. Albeit height, Thomas is a big-time athlete for size and his burst off the bounce allows him to garner clean shot attempts, especially in isolation. Made timely important plays for Kilgore to advance: The Cincinnati commit finished the game with 14 points, 7 rebounds on 50 percent shooting.
Terrance Dixon Jr, 6’8 FR Forward – Kilgore College: I think Dixon’s best basketball is ahead of him as the active front-line prospect finished strong at the rim and showed good touch around the rim. Runs the floors well, strong vertical athlete that impacts trajectory of shots at the rim. Terrance finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block on 83 percent shooting.
Transfer Portal and The Impact on Junior College Basketball
If you follow and listen to the “In The Paint” Show with me, Ronnie Flores and the boss lady Chelsea Hopkins (If you don’t, you need to listen ASAP) then you know we have talked in depth on how current one-time transfer rule has affected the landscape of D1 basketball and high school recruiting. What about Junior College basketball and recruiting? I got a chance to talk to three JUCO coaches that have been in the thick of it for a while to get their thoughts. Kilgore Head Coach Brian Hoberecht, TJC Assistant Coach Mitch Marquis & Navarro Assistant Coach Dejan Pavlovic.
Before we get started, I am aware that JUCOs have been able to get D1 transfers because it never impacted the player’s eligibility, but with the heightened volume of players in the portal, I wanted to know how, if at all, it changed how they build their roster.
“Have to figure out what your balance. Every program has a different definition of what their balance is. If that’s heavier on transfers and some high school/prep players or it’s half & half or maybe a program wants to bring in more high school players than transfers. Either way, D1 recruiting has slowed down across every level of basketball simply because of the portal. D1 staffs are patient, really looking to fill immediate needs and losses and will attack the other things later.”
“Finding the talent isn’t the issue but team building is now. We have to look at our program and see what’s best for us at TJC. How many transfers do we need to bring in? They are more experienced and ready to play but all of them have immediate high expectations. How many high school guys do we need to recruit? They also have high expectations but they may not be ready to help us win like that immediately. Building synergy has been more of a challenge, too, and that all comes to play even more with how the portal is.”
“At our level we definitely keep our eyes in the transfer portal due to the fact we love to recruit experienced players because their game translates quicker than a true freshman out of high school, for example. Transfers are usually steps ahead in terms of skills and knowledge of the game than most true freshmen at our level, so that gives us an advantage to compete at a higher level. However the negative side of the transfer portal is the hit or miss in recruiting. It definitely affects us if we rely on a transfer to be an impact guy or day one starter and he turns out to struggle and maybe then you see why he transferred one or multiple times trying to figure out what level he can truly play at. Some transfers in the portal who transfer to our level often look down to competition in JUCO, I tell them all the time JUCO is a grind and many people are fighting for the same goals. We are very careful in recruiting the portal, my head coach is extremely high on the kids’ character and extremely high on a kid loving the game of basketball.
“Finding the perfect balance will help eliminate a lot of potential problems you may face during the year, you don’t want a whole team of transfers because not everyone gets to play which causes a lot of unhappy players and it will be hard to get 10-12 sophomores that graduate in May moved onto the next level if many of them don’t have the numbers or film to get recruited.”
Impact on sending their player’s D1
“It hasn’t hit us hard but it’s changed what we’ve had to tell our guys. With the portal I’ve noticed many JUCO kids are committing earlier in their seasons than later due to the fact they don’t want to lose what they already have. We tell our players in the fall if schools reach out to you, offer you, and want you to visit, you need to seriously consider making a quick decision whether it’s to commit early or to wait for bigger offers. Reality is, even if you’re not satisfied but it’s the choice you have to make. We tend to tell our players you need to understand how the portal has changed the landscape of our recruiting in JUCO. Not many schools will wait for a JUCO kid anymore as they once did.”
“No it’s not harder. If you’re good they’ll find you. Now it may take a little longer than it did in the past but a kid good enough to go D1 from TJC, will go D1 from here.”
“It hasn’t hit us hard to find places for our guys. And thankfully, our success over the years has helped make the process easier for our staff. But I know as a whole, there just seems to be fewer opportunities for junior college guys.
“It’s made every coach at every level question everything. Now you’re not quite sure. D1 coaches that watch synergy on our guys and even come here still can be unsure. It seems if you don’t have the perfect situation for the player. The kid may leave, so now the first step of recruiting is re-recruiting your own players.”
It’s just not easy to make decisions on JUCO kids as it was 5-7 years ago due to the portal. Many coaches on the D-1 level want the best of the best JUCO players early and fill their rosters with JUCO kids later in the spring or summer for their few spots left or needing a body.
“The one thing the transfer portal rule has taken out that I don’t like is I feel relationship building has gone out of the recruiting process. That part of the recruiting process was crucial for us and helped the player be comfortable quicker once he got on campus.”