Johnson County Community College
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W. Basketball – Lady Cavaliers open season at No. 3
W. Basketball – Lady Cavaliers open season at No. 3
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – After recording four straight 30-win seasons and finishing No. 1 in the final NJCAA Division II poll the past three seasons, it should be no surprise that the Johnson County Community College women’s basketball team enters the 2013-14 season ranked third in the NJCAA D-II Preseason Women’s Basketball Poll.
This is the 14th straight year JCCC has appeared in the NJCAA preseason poll, but their No. three ranking is the highest in the program’s history. Johnson County was ranked No. 4 prior to the start of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, and opened at No. 7 last year.
Despite coming off a 30-2 season and a second straight East Jayhawk Conference championship, head coach Ben Conrad feels he has some unfinished business. JCCC suffered a heartbreaking, buzzer-beating loss to Highland in the championship of the Region VI Tournament, ending the Lady Cavaliers 13-year reign as champions.
Conrad returns six players from last year’s 30-2 East Jayhawk Conference championship team. Among those six are starters Timeka O’Neal, Juanita Robinson, Kariel Hutt and Sameia Kendall. Also back are key reserves Camille Gee and Taylor McDowell. Conrad has also has a list of highly-touted newcomers, including Division I transfers Kelsey Barrett (Eastern Illinois) and Kayonna Lee (Illinois State).
“We have an experienced team that accomplished a great as freshmen.” Conrad said. “They are hungry and have had a tremendous off season. Also, we have added one of the stronger recruiting classes we’ve had her. We expect to be very competitive once again.”
Directing the team is point guard Timeka O’Neal out of Raytown High School. O’Neal was a second-team All-East Jayhawk Conference and All-Region VI selection after staring all 32 games last season. She averaged 10.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.0 steals for the Lady Cavaliers.
“Timeka is a very good point guard,” Conrad said. “She made a serious commitment this summer to her game, and she learned a great deal as a freshman.”
At the wing, Robinson has tremendous potential. Last year she displayed her quickness and athleticism and ability to get to the rim, and this year she will become more of a factor as she can knock down long-range jumpers. Robinson was an All-Region VI D-II honorable mention selection last year after averaging 8.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
“Juanita is a special talent,” said Conrad. “She has matured a great deal and could have a break out year. She is possibly the most talented kid we’ve had at JCCC.”
Hutt is a big, strong and physical post player and was a dominant player on the glass last year for Johnson County. Hutt averaged 8.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, which ranked sixth in the Jayhawk last year. She also shot nearly 56 percent from the field, and that led the conference and ranked seventh in country.
“Kariel is in better shape now than she was as a freshman,” Conrad said. “She should make a nice jump and became a major difference maker.”
Kendell is a combo-guard and Conrad describes her as “tough as nails” when she is on the floor. Last season Kendell averaged 8.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals. She also knocked down 36 treys and shot an impressive 42 percent behind the arch.
“Sameia is a fierce competitor and was a consistent performer as a freshman,” said Conrad. “I expect her to be a key impact kid as a sophomore.”
Gee and McDowell averaged 4.6 and 3.3 points respectively coming off the bench last year. Both could see similar roles again this season, but as seasoned veterans now, they know what is expected and how to compete at this level.
With the number of experienced players returning, Conrad will have the luxury of easing his talented, but inexperienced newcomer along. Of the eight newcomers, Barrett and Lee could be asked to step in and contribute right away. Both originally committed to NCAA Division I programs in Illinois
“Kelsey is a highly skilled wing with good athleticism,” Conrad said. “She plays the game the right way and really gets after it. She has a chance to be very good here. Kayonna is an explosive athlete and has some nice versatility offensively. Her ability to guard multiple positions and her length will be huge assets for us.”
Barrett was a four-year starter at Raytown. She averaged double figures all four years, and finished with over 1,000 career points. She was a four-time all-conference selection, earning first-team honors three times, and a three-time first-team All-District pick. Barrett was also selected to the Kansas City Star’s All-Metro honorable mention team as a senior, was a Missouri nominee for the McDonald’s All-America Games and a MO-KAN All-Star.
Lee was a four-year varsity player and was a two-time Big Rivers Conference selection, including Player of the Year honors her senior season. She also earned Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association D-I Miss Basketball honorable mention honors and was named to the Wisconsin Associated Press All-State honorable mention team in 2013. Her sophomore year, Lee helped her team reach the state tournament in the largest division in Wisconsin.
The other six newcomers are: 5-7 guard Lexus Bradley (North Kansas City H.S., Kansas City, Mo.); 5-11 forward Aleyah Chivers (Hogan Preparatory Academy, Kansas City, Mo.) 5-9 forward Morgan Osborne (St. John-Hudson H.S., St. John, Kan.); 6-0 forward Allison Wallisch (Atchison County H.S., Effingham, Kan.); 5-9 forward Nieka Wheeler (Independence Chrisman H.S., Independence, Mo.) and 5-7 point guard Emily Work (Ell Saline H.S., Brookville, Kan.).
“I always say recruiting classes shouldn’t be evaluated until they get it done playing,” Conrad said. “That being said, I do like this group a lot. We got a great mix of size, athleticism and skill in this group. We’ve got a true point guard in Emily Work, and a couple of very athletic wing players in Wheeler and Osborne. A combo guard that really can shoot it in Bradley. Chivers gives us tremendous athleticism and versatility, and Wallisch is a good-sized kid that really has a great nose for the ball and great hands. Overall, it’s one of the more athletic classes we’ve brought in top to bottom.”
“The best part about this group collectively is they all know how to work,” Conrad continued. “They all have great motors, play hard and will work hard in the classroom too. We’re excited to have them on board.”
Bradley was a three-year starter at North Kansas City, and considered one of the most talented combo guards in the Kansas City Metro. Bradley earned first-team All-District 16 and All-Suburban Mid 6 Conference honors last season while leading the Hornets to a Missouri Class 5, District 16 championship. It was the program’s first district championship since 2001. For the season she averaged 14 points per game, and hit 47 three-point baskets.
Chivers averaged a double-double of 14.6 points and 13.7 rebounds per game at Hogan Prep her senior year. She also averaged 3.8 steals and 3.5 assists and was selected as a first-team All-District performer.
Osborne earned a suitcase full of honors following her senior season. She made the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association 1A All-State second-team, the Wichita Eagle's 1A All-State honorable mention, the Topeka Daily Capital's 1A All-State honorable mention, the Hutchinson News All-Area honorable mention, the Central Prairie League first-team, the Pratt Community College's All-Star game and the Hutchinson Community College's All-Star game. A three-year starter at St. John-Hudson, Osborne averaged 9.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.0 steals per game, and dished out 85 assists with only 35 turnovers her senior season.
Wallisch was a three-year starter for her father and coach Cy Wallisch at Atchison County. She averaged 13.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game as a senior, and was selected All-State second-team by Varsity Kansas, the Topeka Capital Journal and the Wichita Eagle. Wallisch was also a two-time All-Delaware Valley League performer and Kansas Basketball Coaches Association 3A All-State honorable mention selection.
Wheeler has been touted as one of the most athletic basketball players in the Metro and Missouri. A three-year starter at Chrisman, Wheeler averaged 18.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.1 steals her senior season, and finished her career with 1,264 points and 878 rebounds. She was named second-team All-Sate by a statewide panel of Missouri sportswriters and broadcasters, and earned first-team All-Suburban Middle Seven Conference and All-District honors as well. She was also was a McDonald’s All-American nominee and selected to play in the All-Star Challenge presented by the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association. As a sophomore, Wheeler averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds per game while leading William Chrisman to a conference title. She was named first -team all-conference, All-District and 2nd Team All-Examiner.
Work was a four-year starter at Ell-Saline, and averaged double figures scoring all four seasons. Her first season, Work averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds and was selected honorable mention All-County. She earned second-team All-Heart of America Conference her sophomore year after averaging 12.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists. As a junior, Work led Ell-Saline in scoring in 17 of their 21 games, helping the Cardinals to 16 wins in the regular season, the most since 1996. She averaged 14.8 points and was selected first-team Heart of America Conference, second-team 2A All-State by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association and second-team All-State by the Wichita Eagle. Her final year, Work was averaging 16. 3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists before suffering a season-ending injury. She still garnered honorable mention All-County and second-team All-State by the Topeka Capital Journal. Work closed out her career with 964 points and 356 rebounds.
Johnson County opens play this season Nov. 1-2 at the Fort Scott Classic, facing Wentworth Military Academy and William Penn University JV. The schedule also features 13 home games, and Conrad’s crew will look to continue their home court winning streak. JCCC brings a 38-game string into the season, and as they run through their schedule, the Lady Cavaliers hope there truly is not place like home in the postseason. JCCC is scheduled to host the NJCAA Division II Women’s Tournament in March. It is the first of three-year contract. JCCC was also hosted from 1975 to 1982, and again in 2004.