NCCC’s Panthers and Lady Panthers were recognized for their brains on Thursday.
The National Junior College Athletic Association released a list of the 2019-20 sports academic teams of the year. Several NCCC teams were among the top academic junior college sports programs in the nation, including the baseball team with an overall team GPA of 3.33, the women’s basketball team with a 3.41 GPA, the women’s indoor track and field team with a 3.41 GPA, the women’s soccer team with a 3.24 GPA, and the volleyball team with a 3.66 GPA.
Head NCCC baseball coach Steve Murry has been at the helm for the last 35 years. But the NJCAA has only started commemorating total team GPAs for about the last 10 years.
Murry said this year is satisfying for reasons outside of students’ control: the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it’s more satisfying this year because we have little tidbits or more control in most years; we have study halls, we have grade checks, we have all kinds of things that are in place when we are all face to face,” Murry said. “Unfortunately this spring, once March hit, we have literally had very little contact with players, instructors, anybody, so we were kind of left out of the loop and kind of let our kids handle it on their own with just the best of hopes, and it sounded like they did an outstanding job. If we get a message from the teacher, then we contact the kid, but nowhere near as much control as we usually have over the situation.”
Head NCCC women’s basketball coach JJ Davis said he was impressed with his team’s consistent showing of academic results. This is his fourth team in a row ranked in the top 20 academically.
“I’m super excited to have another team in the top 20 in grade point average,” Davis said. “(I’m) blessed to get to lead kids who believe in more than basketball.”
Head NCCC volleyball coach Marisa Compton said she is thrilled her team was able to execute off of the volleyball court. And to rise above other teams in their Jayhawk division made it that much sweeter.
“I’m extremely proud of the hard work our players put into their academics, especially during unprecedented circumstances,” Compton said.
“To finish the school year ranked sixth academically in the nation for volleyball and as the top academic volleyball team in the Jayhawk East is a testament to our players and their commitment to excel in the classroom.”
NCCC track and field coach Noe Hernandez said he was all smiles when he found out his athletes were among the best academically.
“(I am) very im- pressed,” Hernandez said. “Yes, they were (working hard). We as a coaching staff, we push grades a lot.”
Murry has always pushed academic excellence, including adding extra study halls, more grade checks, punishment for missing class, and not allowing players to practice if grades aren’t good enough. He knows that academic success leads to a fruitful life once graduated. While over his timespan as coach, his team has averaged just north of a 3.0 GPA.
Coming off a season in which there were no sports, Murry ascribed the success in the classroom to the student-athletes being more goal-directed and NCCC academic advisor and instructor Mindy Ayers, who not only helps out with baseball, but other NCCC sports as well.
“She does a lot of our advising, and she also is a huge confidant for these kids, meaning if they have a problem, they can run to Mindy and figure out how to best take care of their stuff in their class,” Murry said. “She just does an excellent job as a student advocate.”
Former NCCC right-handed pitcher Josh Flack, who achieved NCCC baseball’s top GPA over the past two years and will attend Kansas State University to play baseball, said he trusted the process on the road to academic excellence.
“I give credit to Coach Murry and the coaching staff. In the beginning of the year, they really talked to the team and told us how school is really important and they asked us to check in with every class ... so I think that just kind of keeps you on top of everything, making sure you don’t miss class,” Flack said. “After practice each night, you have a few hours when you can go with a few teammates to the library, and just a nice quiet place to settle down and do all your assignments, and it worked out.”
Flack plans on playing baseball at a very high level. But at KSU, he will study finance before looking for a job.
“...Things that I think a lot of people don’t understand is this: If you are going to be good in something, you are probably going to be good in most things, so if you are going to be good on the field, you probably better be good in the classroom, you probably better be a good human, you probably better be good in relationships. It all translates. If you are striving for perfection in all parts in your life, you are going to be good,” Murry said.