The Neosho County Community College women’s basketball team has seen improvement in each of Coach JJ Davis’ first two years, and this year looks to be no different.
“We are getting better each year, and we feel like this is our best recruiting class,” he said. “We got some kids that other schools wanted, and I think it will help us.
“They are a good group. They are a fun group to coach,” Davis added. “We are heading the Neosho Way, and we are taking it step-by-step.”
The Neosho Way preaches three things: trust, discipline and loyalty, which are the three core values of what the program is built upon.
“It starts from the first day of boot camp,” Davis explained. “We try to maintain it and become better people and as basketball players.”
Even though the roster for the upcoming season hasn’t been set, Davis pointed to four players that will be key to the success of the Panther team during the 2015-16 season.
It starts with a pair of sophomores in Makayla Bell and Morgan Finley.
“Both of them are Kansas kids and will help in ways that last year didn’t. They’ve matured and learning how it is to lead,” Davis said.
Bell is a 5-foot, 10-inch sophomore from Lawrence, while Finley is a 5-8 guard from Fredonia.
During their freshman campaign’s Bell averaged 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
“She is doing well. She came back in pretty good shape and is leading the team,” Davis explained.
Meanwhile, Finley averaged 3.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
The roster also includes a group of transfers.
“Our kids that have transferred in have come in from good (NJCAA) Division I programs,” Davis said. “For one reason or another, they are now with us, and we hope they contribute in ways we want them to.”
Transfers include Taylor Burns and Ashlyn Horton from Garden City Community College, Kascity Martin from Southeast (Neb.) Community College, and Precious Palmer from Community College of Baltimore County.
“If they are a transfer, they have to learn our Neosho Way, and sometimes, that takes some time,” Davis said. “In the long run, it’ll will help them get better.”
The third-year coach also points to a pair of impact freshman in Ki’Asha Harris and Bianca Valderrama.
Both players are from Texas with Harris, a 5-10 guard from Mansfield, and Valderrama, a 5-10 forward from Corpus Christi.
“(Ki’Asha) has been a real spotlight for us,” Davis said. “She came here with raw talent. She’s been a sponge so far. She’s done some things well and is a great kid off the court.”
The coach added she has a good motor on the offensive side of the ball and is a great rebounder.
Meanwhile, Davis described Valderrama as tough.
“She’s getting better everyday. If everything aligns for her, she will be very good for us,” he said.
The Panthers will get tested right out of the gates when the season begins on Sunday, Nov. 1 at Wentworth (Mo.) Military Academy at 2 pm.
“They are a good team out of Missouri,” Davis said. “It’ll be a pretty good test on the road for the first game. We’ll see quickly how well we get tested.”
That’s not the only JuCo out of the state of Missouri that the Neosho County will see this season.
“We go to Fort Scott and play two more Missouri JuCo’s in Penn Valley and Cottey College,” Davis explained. “Penn Valley is a very athletic team and gets up and down the court really well, and Cottey beat us twice last year, so that is a high part of the schedule. The kids and us are looking forward playing that weekend. We have some unfinished business there, and we hope to repair some of those wounds and play well that weekend.”
This year’s schedule also includes more home games with the new schedule format, which Davis said is exciting.
“When we took the job three years ago, they had been bad for a long time. We are coming along. This year, if we have a 10-win season, we will become the first team in school history with three 10-win seasons,” Davis said. “That’s something to be positive about.”
Nov. 1 at Wentworth (Mo.) Military, 2 pm
Nov. 4 vs. Ottawa University, 5:30 pm
Nov. 7 at Rhema Bible College, 5:30 pm
Nov. 11 vs. Bethel College, 5:30 pm
Southeast Community College Classic in Beatrice, Neb.
Nov. 13 vs. Concordia (Neb.) 6 pm
Nov. 14 vs. Frank Phillips 2 pm
Gladbach Classic in Fort Scott
Nov. 20 vs. MCC-Penn Valley, 2 pm
Nov. 21 vs. Cottey College, Noon
Nov. 30 at Hutchinson, 5:30 pm
Dec. 2 vs. Dodge City, 5:30 pm
Dec. 5 vs. Colby, 2 pm
Dec. 12 at Cloud County, 5:30 pm
Jan. 2 vs. Garden City, 2 pm
Jan. 6 at Seward County, 5:30 pm
Jan. 13 vs. Pratt, 5:30 pm
Jan. 16 at Cowley, 5:30 pm
Jan. 20 vs. Bulter, 5:30 pm
Jan. 23 vs. Independence, 2 pm
Jan. 25 vs. Wentworth Military, 5:30 pm
Jan. 28 vs. Missouri Valley, 5:30 pm
Jan. 30 at Coffeyville, 5:30 pm
Feb. 1 vs. Allen County, 5:30 pm
Feb. 3 at Pratt, 5:30 pm
Feb. 6 vs. Cowley, 2 pm
Feb. 10 at Bulter, 5:30 pm
Feb. 13 at Independence, 4 pm
Feb. 17 vs. Little Priest Tribal, 5:30 pm
Feb. 20 vs. Coffeyville, 2 pm
Feb. 22 vs. Allen County, 6 pm
Feb. 27 at Region VI PlayoffsTBA
March 15 at NationalsTBA