South Plains was on top of the junior college basketball world at the end of the 2017-18 season.
The Texans captured their third national title — all under head coach Steve Green, who became just the fourth coach to win three national titles at the NJCAA Division I level.
“It doesn’t ever get old,” Green said. “Each one seems to be a bit better. The team finally came together at the right time. We had some ups and downs throughout the season, and we were never a complete team until the right time.”
Green, who is in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference Hall of Fame and the NJCAA Hall of Fame, has an overall record of 616-165, including 462-122 in 18 seasons at South Plains.
South Plains, which was the 13th seed at the national tournament, defeated Southern Idaho in the championship contest, 98-95.
The Texans would like to make it back-to-back titles, but it won’t be easy with just two players returning from last year’s squad.
Chris Orlina averaged 9.9 points per game and had 17 points in the national title game. Chris Efretuei — a 7-1 center — played in just 21 games in 2017-18 and averaged 1.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
Joining the Texans are Texas-El Paso transfers Deon Barrett and Trey Wade and his younger brother Trevin Wade, LaSalle transfer Dajour Joseph, Washington State transfer Jamar Ergas and Mount St. Mary’s transfer Jonah Antonio.
South Plains will also have competition atop the WJCAC in the form of Odessa.
Odessa dropped a 101-92 decision to South Plains in the Region V Championship last season before also advancing to the national tournament. Odessa fell in the second round in Hutchinson, Kansas, to national runner-up Southern Idaho.
Tra Arnold left after six seasons at Odessa to join the staff at Division I Iona, but the Wranglers were able to fill the void by hiring Kris Baumann, a former head coach at Trinity Valley, who spent the past two years as an assistant at Texas-El Paso.
“I think it’s always good being your own boss,” Baumann said. “I’m excited about the opportunity. Odessa has a tradition, not only in basketball, but in all junior college athletics. The West Texas league is one of the more powerful leagues in the country, so it will be a challenge.”
Baumann has a record of 280-146 overall. His last team at Trinity Valley went 33-2.
The Wranglers will welcome an entirely new roster, highlighted by Dimon Carrigan (the No. 1 junior college player in the country), Buffalo transfer James Reese, Jonas Parker, Dayton transfer Jordan Pierce, Paris transfer Adrean Johnson, Central Georgia Tech transfer Jaquan Daniels and Chipola transfer Davante Carter.
Howard and Clarendon joined Odessa and South Plains at the Region V Tournament from the WJCAC last season. But this year, New Mexico and Western Texas are hoping to crash the party.
New Mexico brings in South Carolina transfer Rakym Felder, UNC-Charlotte transfer Ryan Murphy, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi transfers Sean Rhea and Deion Rhea, Rice transfer Najia Hunter and Florida Gulf Coast transfer Darnell Rodgers, who stands at just 5-3.
The Thunderbirds also add Nathan Fromm from Western Wyoming Community College and Malik Mooving from Central Community College. Both Fromm and Mooving averaged 19 points per game at their previous schools.
Midland, New Mexico Military and Frank Phillips also hope to make a move up the conference standings.
In the Region V North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference, McLennan is expected to repeat at the top under head coach Kevin Gill, who has compiled a record of 403-104 at the school.
Xavier Armstead and Javen Hedgeman are back for the Highlanders after they both averaged double figures last season. Houston transfer Mike Adewunmi and Tarleton State transfer Devyn Brewton are notable newcomers forMcLennan.
Temple — under the direction of Kirby Johnson, who has a record of 667-292 in 31 seasons at the helm — returns Sebastian Karwoski, Terreon Randolph, Jibrael Washington, Curry Flowers and Sammy Brooks.
The Leopards also welcome in St. Peter’s transfer Kedrian Johnson and Texas-Arlington transfer Tim Holland.
“We have a good mixture of experience and youth, and we have a good mixture of size and speed,” Coach Johnson said. “We have a team that should be a playoff contender.”
Temple finished second in the nation in scoring last season at 106.7 points per game, ending its three-year run of leading the nation in that category. The Cougars have won 11 national scoring titles overall.
Ranger still has head coach Billy Gillespie on the sidelines, which makes it an automatic contender.
Hill returns double-digit scorers Michael Medlin Jr., Xavier Johnson and Quinton Brigham, along with Marques Williams-Bey and Emmanuel Bandoumel.
Elijah Ifejeh transfers in from Ranger College. Bol Tong, Rasheed Brown, Luke Phillips, Trajan Snell, Christopher Murry, Amiri Waddell and Michael Micklos Jr. are other newcomers that could help Hill challenge for a spot in the Region V Tournament.
Ifejeh and Phillips are both committed to Louisiana-Monroe.
In the Region XIV North Zone, everybody will be looking to knock off Trinity Valley, which posted an incredible 18-1 mark last season.
The Cardinals have had an All-American at point guard the past four seasons — Dedrick Basile, Hyron Edwards and Wendell Mitchell. Mitchell was the latest in that group and is now at Texas A&M.
Trinity Valley will look to Marquan Williams and BJ Simmons to take over the point guard duties.
The Cardinals also welcome in Baylor transfer Tyson Jolly, Memphis transfer David Nickelberry, Stephen F. Austin transfer Stephon Fisher and New Mexico State transfer Korjek Miles.
“We have a younger group,” Trinity Valley head coach Guy Furr said. “We might not be as fast out of the gate, but we feel like once the tournament gets here, we will be able to compete at a high level.”
Tyler joined Trinity Valley at the national tournament last season, but the Apaches lost several key players from a season ago, many who are now at Division I programs.
Micah Thomas, Edra Luster and Cameron Johnson are the only returners for Tyler.
“We will have to lean on those guys early,” Tyler head coach Mike Marquis said. “I think we have decent length with our new guys, but you never know how they’re going to perform at this level until the season starts.”
Kilgore brings back Demiere Brown, Malachi Davidson and Darrian Grays.
Jordyn Owens and Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne transfer Jarius Stevens are the sophomore newcomers for the Rangers.
Other notable newcomers are Kevin Buckley, Assane Ndiaye, Rodrique Andela, Tyron McMillan and Michael Asante.
Panola Navarro, Paris and Bossier Parish should also field strong teams in the 2018-19 season.
Akron transfer Eric Parrish, EJ Clark, Erie Olonade, Jason Holliday, David Williams, Loyola Marymount transfer Mikail Simmons, Paris Harris and Lane Hartley are expected to be key players for Bossier Parish.
In the Region XIV South Zone, San Jacinto’s run in the league has come to an end as the school got rid of the basketball program.
That opens the door for Jacksonville, Blinn, Lamar State-Port Arthur, Coastal Bend, Angelina and Lee.
Jacksonville actually finished with the top record in the South Zone last season, one game ahead of San Jacinto, but was ruled ineligible for postseason play.
“We always have to have motivation, no matter the situation,” Jacksonville head coach Aaron Smith said. “The main thing is for us to handle our business and try to get back to the level we were at last year. We had a stretch late where we won 10 of 11 games, so I was extremely proud of the way they were able to battle through adversity.”
Returning for Jacksonville are Brandon Battle, Shea Rax and Joel Polius. Newcomers for Jacksonville are Vydal Bradford, Jordan Mitchell and Stefan Bozikovic.
For Lamar State-Port Arthur, Tevin Baker, Alex Williams, Devin Ellis and Justice Vaughn all return. The Seahawks also added Thailan Wesley, Darion Chatman and Jamyus Jones from Class 5A state champion Port Arthur Memorial.
Angelina will be under the direction of new head coach Nick Wade. He has been an assistant at Angelina for the past two seasons and this will be his first head coaching job. He’s also been an assistant coach at Lee College, McKinney Boyd High School and Conroe Oak Ridge High School.
“I am blessed and humbled for this opportunity,” Wade said. “With the work the guys have been putting in and allowing me to coach them, I am excited for the opportunity to compete with these guys this season.”
Kevin Norman, Devaugn Gauno and Travis Henson are the only returners for the Roadrunners, who also added Frank Phillips transfer Markus Stevenson, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M transfer Cedric Ward and South Dakota transfer Walter Prevost.
In Region V’s Dallas Athletic Conference, Eastfield, North Lake, Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Mountain View and Richland will look to battle it out.
Eastfield returns Rashaun Coleman, who was the conference’s Freshman of the Year a season ago after averaging 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.1 rebounds per game. Anthony McGee is back after setting a school record with 11 made 3-pointers in a game. Danny Salamah and Scott Garriga also return.
Myles Brown, Tyler Williams, Joshua Laney, Lance Wright, D’Angelo Smith, Nick Lance, Ta’Marcus Butler, Xavier Benson and Courtland Pender are the newcomers for Eastfield.
North Lake is coming off of a sixth-place finish at the NJCAA Division III National Torunament. North Lake returns Brady Boyd and Seyi Imade, and they will be joined by newcomers, James Roundtree, Emory Price and Midland transfer Michael Hillebrand.
Predicted Order of Finish:
- South Plains
- New Mexico
- Western Texas
- New Mexico Military
- Frank Phillips
- Collin County
- Southwestern Christian
- North Lake
- Mountain View
- Cedar Valley
- Trinity Valley
- Bossier Parish
- Lamar State-Port Arthur
- Coastal Bend