By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
The next time college basketball season rolls around and you are contemplating whether to attend a Northern Oklahoma College Enid game, here is something to ponder: you could be seeing a future NBA champ in action. Seriously, it’s not an out-of-this-realm possibility.
Junior college, especially in basketball, has been an avenue for many players to develop both their game and get their academics in order to impress college scouts on the next level and serve as a gateway to the pros, and even on to the game’s biggest stage.
The Miami Heat proved that with their second consecutive NBA title by having a pair of former JUCO performers on their roster.
Chris “Birdman” Andersen — you know him, he is the one with more ink on his body than in the newspaper you are holding and whose hair is so rigidly spiked, it would be considered a lethal weapon if he were inclined to head-butt somebody — honed his game while attending Blinn (Texas), where he led the National Junior College Athletic Association with 4.7 blocks in 1997-1998. Andersen became a significant cog in the Heat’s title run down the stretch.
But Andersen isn’t the only former JUCO player sporting an NBA championship. Joel Anthony actually secured his second NBA championship with the Miami Heat. Anthony came out of Montreal and went to Pensacola State (Fla.) where he developed his game and secured a hoops scholarship to UNLV where he was Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 before making into the NBA.
JUCO players also can be found on the rosters of several other NBA playoff squads, making major impacts.
A little closer to home, Reggie Evans, who played at Coffeyville (Kan.), averaged a team-high 12.3 rebounds per game for the Brooklyn Nets.
Also — and this one maybe hits a little too close to home for Thunder fans — Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, who was a constant irritant for Memphis in its playoff series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, also is a product of JUCO hoops, starting his collegiate career at Butler (Kan.) and Wabash Valley (Ill.) before heading over to Oklahoma State where he earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors in 2004. Allen led the Grizzlies’ defensive charge by averaging 2.0 steals per game in the playoffs.
Of course there is no guarantee a future Jets player will be hooping it up in the NBA, but it is proof there is a fairly high level of basketball being played on the courts across the JUCO ranks and that includes the Mabee Center, home of NOC Enid.
The Jets, under head coach Greg Shamburg, have sent their fair share of players on to four-year schools (46 players in total since 2002) and this past season, one of their recent standouts, Xavier McClish, led Arkansas-Fort Smith in assists and was a major contributor for the Heartland Conference champion Lions. It’s not unreasonable to think it’s a matter of time before an ex-Jet turns up in the NBA.
In some respects, Enid seems like a million miles from the NBA, but whether it’s with the Jets or one of NOC Enid’s opponents, there is a reasonable chance a future NBA player could be crashing the boards or slashing through the lane at the Mabee Center, bringing the NBA a bit closer to Enid.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.