By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Northern Oklahoma College Enid’s Jeremy Espinoza and Philip Brown are making the move to NCAA Division II after completing their careers with the Jets.
Brown has signed with the University of Central Oklahoma, while Espinoza will remain a Jet after signing with Newman University of Wichita, Kan.
“There won’t be too much of a transition for them,’’ said Jets coach Greg Shamburg. “Both of their grade point averages are above 3.0. They are good examples of what the student athlete should be academically and athletically. It’s a good situation for both of them. They are close enough where we can still keep track of them.’’
Education was prominent in Brown’s decision in choosing UCO over Oklahoma Wesleyan and Rogers State.
“UCO has a nice campus and it has what I need to graduate and become a math teacher like I want to,’’ said the 6-foot-7 Brown. “It has a real good math department.’’
UCO offered more scholarship money and Brown feels he will fit into coach Terry Evans’ uptempo style.
“They focus on big,’’ Brown said. “They are looking for someone inside they can throw it into. They like having someone who can handle the ball down low and can finish around the rim.’’
Brown averaged 5.4 points and 4.5 rebounds as a sophomore. He shot 50.8 percent from the field and 60.9 percent from the foul line.
His goal is to be a starter next season.
“They lost a lot of posts,’’ Brown said. “He (Evans) told me they are looking for someone to fill that spot. That sounds good to me. You always want to start.’’
Brown’s first priority is to put on some more muscle. He wants to add 20 pounds to his 220-pound frame.
“I’m going to have to work hard over the summer,’’ he said. “I’m going to work on my post moves and develop more of a mid-range game.
“I just want to work on my ballhandling and see if I can attack people off the dribble. I’m not slow. I want to be the guy who puts more points on the board.’’
Brown said NOC Enid prepared him well for the step up.
“I always thought I could handle the basketball, but going here really helped me going to classes on my own,’’ he said. “It’s a relief to know I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to play next year and I can continue to play.’’
Espinoza, a second-team all-Region 2 selection, chose Newman over Dallas Baptist, Northeastern Oklahoma and Oklahoma Baptist University.
“The coaches are great and they have a great system of play,’’ Espinoza said. “It fits my style. I could have gone closer to home (Uvalde,Texas), but I chose what was best for me.’’
Espinoza averaged 15.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals his sophomore year. He was 48 percent from the field, 34.9 percent from 3-point range and 77.2 percent from the line.
The Jets recruited him as a combo forward. He will guard multiple positions.
“It’s pretty much what I did here,’’ he said. “I don’t think it will be much of an adjustment for me. Juco is pretty fast-paced, so I don’t think much will change except it (D-II) will probably be more physical.’’
Espinoza rose from being little-used in the first semester of his freshman year to part-time starter to a bonafide star.
“I think have grown as a basketball player and as a person,’’ Espinoza said. “I’ve learned to be more responsible. In basketball, I learned to take what is given to me and let the game come to me.’’
Espinoza said the Newman coaches have told him he would have a chance to play immediately. The Jets play in the Heartland Conference.
“I’m definitely happy with my decision,’’ he said.
Espinoza hasn’t decided on a major, but said he is looking at sports management.
His biggest thrills were beating NOC Tonkawa three out of four times and scoring 17 points in his first start as a freshman against Carl Albert.
“That was my breakout game,’’ he said. “I’m glad I chose the juco route. I’m grateful for the support I got from the people back home, coach Shamburg, coach (Ryan) Mahoney and all the fans here.’’
Dalen Qualls, the Jets’ leading scorer (17.2 average) will visit Division I Wofford this weekend. He has a visit scheduled to Tulane and is considering Northeastern Oklahoma.
“We’ll wait and see what happens,’’ he said. “Wofford has offered and Tulane is on the verge of offering. It’s going to be good for me no matter what school I choose.’’
Connor Brooks, who averaged 13.1 points per game a a sophomore, is looking at Missouri Southern, Missouri Western and Northeastern Oklahoma.
“I’m taking my time,’’ he said. “I’m not close to a decision yet.’’쇓