Young Blue Devils give promise to exciting basketball season

Coach Kelley Newton (KCKCC photo)

Road opener Wednesday; then four in a row at home starting Saturday night

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

You will need a program when Kansas City Kansas Community College kicks off the 2017-2018 men’s basketball season.

With graduation taking three All-Region VI selections, not one member of last year’s 11-20 team returns – which is not necessarily all bad, according to fifth-year coach Kelley Newton.

“You don’t know what to expect and that’s a good thing, the exciting part,” said Newton, a former standout at Wyandotte High School and the University of Oklahoma. “Our youth makes it exciting because of the possibilities we have this year. It’s our first time together, a brand new team with expectations high because of our program. It’s a team that I have no doubt will not only meet but exceed those expectations. The thing I really love about this team is that it competes; the guys love to compete.”

The Blue Devils open the season Wednesday at Missouri Southern in Joplin but then play the next four at home starting with the home opener Saturday against Ottawa junior varsity at 7:30 p.m. Park University’s junior varsity comes in Monday followed by the annual Keith Lindsey Classic Nov. 10-11.

Starting from scratch is certainly nothing new to Newton. Hired in late July in 2013, his first team won just seven games but a year later the Blue Devils were 23-9 and a year after that they were regional champions and in the NJCAA Division II national tournament for the first and only time in KCKCC history.

“There’s a lot of resemblance from this year to my first year in that everyone was new to me,” Newton said. “But the difference is I was able to recruit this year’s team; the first year I wasn’t.”

On paper, an aggressive recruiting campaign has given Newton and his coaching staff reasons to have those high expectations.

“In our recruiting process, we wanted to improve two certain areas – a deeper bench and more length and I think we accomplished both,” he said.

Size will certainly be a plus. Front-line candidates include 6-9 Tyson Bering from SanTan Valley, Ariz.; 6-8 Andre Williams of Lauderdale Lake, Fla.; 6-7 Chance Scott of Wichita South; and 6-5 Josiah Laws of Cumming, Ga., one of three sophomore transfers on the roster. A transfer from Wentworth Military Academy, which closed its doors this past spring after 137 years, Laws averaged 4.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

There’s also size at the wing position where 6-6 DuVonte Beard of Ruskin, 6-5 Arother Ratliff of Greenwood, Miss.; and 6-3 Sterling Hicks of St. Joseph (Mo.) Lafayette are expected to share most of the playing time.

A pair of sophomore transfers are in line to direct the Blue Devil offense from the point guard position – 6-0 Dion Union of Olathe East and 6-3 Juwan Davenport of Charlotte, N.C. Union is a transfer from Neosho County Community College where he played in 30 games last season, 10 as a starter averaging 5.5 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and shooting 71.4 percent from the free throw line. Davenport transferred from Coppin State, an NCAA Division I university where he played in 12 games, averaging 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds.

“We’ll lean on them to run the team,” Newton said. “They’ve taken on the role of team leaders and will have the responsibility of taking us as far as possible.”

Three promising freshmen will fill the roles of combination guard – 5-11 Soloman Thomas of Hogan Prep; 6-3 Malcolm Tate of Wichita South; and 6-2 DeJuan Sweet of Leavenworth.

“One (of) our strengths will be that we’ll be able to score from different positions and not have to rely on any one area,” Newton said. “We’re also deeper than we have been in past years. We’ve got a lot of freshmen, which will involve a lot of teaching, which in the long run will enable us to get better every game.”

That teaching will come from third-year assistant Alton Mason, who was a standout guard at Arizona State University and professionally in Europe; newcomer Trinity Hall, a former Wyandotte and UMKC star; and Newton, who coached previously at Neosho County, Midland (Texas) and the University of North Alabama as well in the Women’s Blue Chip professional league. Hall will work mainly with the post players; Mason with the guards.

Division II of the Jayhawk Conference will have a somewhat different look this season with the closing of the athletic programs at Brown Mackie in Salina. However, the competitiveness will be the same.

“Super-competitive; it’s the Jayhawk Conference,” said Newton, whose Blue Devils will play their final 10 games of the season against conference rivals Johnson County, Hesston, Fort Scott, Highland and Labette. “It’s tough; every night a strong test.”

Kansas City Kansas Community College
2017-18 Men’s Basketball Schedule

Nov. 1 – Missouri Southern JV, Away 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 – OTTAWA JV, Home 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 6 – PARK JV, Home 7 p.m.
Nov. 10 – LINK YEAR PREP 8 p.m.
Nov. 11 – N. CENTRAL MISSOURI 6 p.m.
Nov. 15 – North Arkansas, Away 7 p.m.
Nov. 17 – SAINT MARY JV, Home 7 p.m.
Nov. 21 – IOWA WESTERN, Home 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 25 – Penn Valley, Away 4 p.m.
Nov. 27 – Washburn JV, Away TBA
Nov. 29 – Park University JV, Away 7 p.m.
Dec. 1 – NORTH ARKANSAS, Home 7 p.m.
Dec. 9 – IOWA LAKES, Home 4 p.m.
Dec. 12 – Iowa Western, Away 7 p.m.
Jan. 6 – On Point Academy, Away 2 p.m.
Jan. 12 – STRENGTH N MOTION 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13 – PENN VALLEY 4 p.m.
Jan. 16 – WASHBURN JV, Home 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 19 – Saint Mary JV, Away 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 – N. Central Missouri, Away 7 p.m.
Jan. 24 – Johnson County*, Away 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 – HESSTON*, Home 4 p.m.
Jan. 31 – Fort Scott*, Away 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 – HIGHLAND*, Home 4 p.m.
Feb. 7 – LABETTE*, Home 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 – JOHNSON COUNTY*, Home 4 p.m.
Feb. 14 – Hesston*, Away 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 17 – FORT SCOTT*, Home 4 p.m.
Feb. 21 – Highland*, Away 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 – Labette*, Away 4 p.m.
• – Jayhawk Conference game
Feb. 28 – Region VI quarterfinals TBA
March 3 – Region VI semifinals TBA
March 7 – Region VI finals Park City

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