The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 10, 2013

NJCAA needs to change at at-large policies

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Short takes while recovering from the end of basketball season.

Note to the National Junior College Athletic Association: Change the rules for at-large berths for the national basketball tournament.

Giving them to regions on a rotating basis is not always fair. Currently, a region has an at-large berth every four years.

Also, it’s confusing when the Region 2 men’s runner-up goes and the women’s doesn’t, as was the case this year.

Ditto for a few years from now, when the Region 2 women have the at-large berth, and the men don’t.

Speaking of at-large berths, why does the tournament runner-up get one and the regular season champion doesn’t?

Not that Connors (who lost to Eastern in the finals Saturday) is not a worthy representative.  NOC Enid won’t argue that after losing to the Cowboys three times.

But what about NOC Tonkawa, who won the regular season with a 16-2 record, only to lose to Eastern in the quarterfinals?

The Mavericks won the league by three games over runner-up Connors, yet they are staying home. Proves NOC Enid men’s coach Greg Shamburg’s point that seeds don’t mean anything in the tournament.

• A laurel to the heart of the NOC Enid women, who ended up winning the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference championship, despite ending the season with only seven healthy players.

Guard Chelsea Bates was very deserving of being the conference MVP and a member of the all-tournament team, as she literally carried the team on her back the past few games.

The sad part is 2012-13 will be remembered as “what if.’’

Oklahoma State signee Marisha Wallace was slowed virtually the whole season by illness or injuries. There’s no telling what the Lady Jets would have done with a healthy Wallace inside to go with the floor generalship of Bates.

• Another laurel to Lady Jets coach Scott Morris, the tri-coach of the year.

Consider this as part of the Lady Jets’ achievement. Two of the healthy seven players — Rani Melvin and McKinsey Schumpert  — weren’t even on the pre-season roster.

Melvin, an All-Stater at Enid High, was recruited out of the student body. Schumpert was the team manager.

One positive on the injury front was the comeback of Christa Beasler from ACL surgery the year before. Beasler was a third-team all-conference selection.

• NOC Enid Dean of Students Ron Shidemantle should be commended for his work this season to get the crowds more involved.

Sometime soon a fan will make the halfcourt shot to win the big screen television. Shidemantle gave contestants plenty of chances at least.

The fans seemed more involved. Men’s assistant Ryan Mahoney said the energy from the crowd in a come-from-behind 85-78 win over Western was the best he’s seen in his three years at the school.

However, while the crowds were better, most fans came as empty seats.

The Enid community is missing some good basketball by not coming to the games. One can understand the average fan may not identify as much with a junior college than a four-year school, but it’s still good, economic entertainment. The community supports the Division  II Baseball World Series. They should support the Jets just as well.

• Another laurel to Chisholm Trail Broadcasting’s broadcasts of Jets games. They were Division I quality.

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.