|Friday, March 29
Dixie's 'D' the key in NJCAA title
By David Benezra and Mark Mayemura
Special to ESPN.com
Down by 15 with little more than nine minutes to play on Sunday, Dixie State College (St. George, Utah) head coach Jeff Kidder knew he had to make an adjustment. After all, this was the national championship game of the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
And he knew exactly what adjustment to make. When in trouble, Kidder goes to the press. That's what he did the night before in the semifinals against then undefeated (34-0) No. 1-ranked Schoolcraft College (Flint, Mich.). Down 14 with 16 minutes to play, Kidder had Dixie go into its full-court press, sent some fresh players into the lineup and sped up the tempo.
The result: Dixie 72, Schoolcraft 69. Dixie's All-American post man -- 6-9, 225-pound sophomore Jaime Lloreda -- led the way with 30 points and 8 boards.
So with the national title on the line, Kidder had the Rebels go into their press and put some fresh, athletic players into the lineup, and things started to happen. The tempo of the game increased; turnovers occurred. Dixie hit a couple of threes and the tide turned in its favor.
A putback with 12 seconds remaining by 6-8 sophomore forward Wes Edwards was the winning margin in Dixie's 82-81 victory over Coffeyville College for the NJCAA championship.
With a sellout crown of partisan fans cheering for in-state Coffeyville, Dixie was again led by the inspired play of Lloreda, who finished with a game-high 26 points and seven rebounds to lead the championship run for the Rebels. For Dixie head coach Kidder, this was the third trip to Hutch and the national tournament in the last four years, representing the American Scenic West Conference (Utah, Idaho, Oregon). The title was the second ever for Dixie; the Rebels had previously won the national title in 1985.
"There was no quit in our guys," said Dixie mentor Kidder. "There were 8,000 screaming fans and they weren't for the Rebels. We had about 100 people there rooting for Dixie, but the atmosphere was something we had to overcome.
"It's a euphoric feeling, I'm so excited and tickled that we could represent our school so well and win the national championship," Kidder continued. "Against Coffeyville, they were in control of the game, in their own rhythm, which is why I went to the press. It was a heated game. Our press got to them and we hit some threes. I knew we could do it.
"Our guys knew what was needed and they stepped up," Kidder said. "It's such a great feeling to win our second title. They pulled it out when they had to. And Jaime Lloreda is the greatest player I've ever coached. He's done more for this program than any other player. He's been great."
Kidder, who is 143-30 in his five years at Dixie, had an eventful week in Hutchinson, which included getting tossed out of the tournament opener against Arkansas-Fort Smith, just three minutes into the game for arguing a call.
Lloreda, a native of Panama and the tournament's MVP, is a strong, physical inside player who committed last fall to LSU.
Dixie's exposure in Hutchinson (more than 200 4-year colleges were in attendance) boosted the recruiting visibility of several of their stars.
Dixie's 6-4 shooting guard, Alfred Williams (Bakersfield, Calif.), who prior to his appearance in Hutch, had San Diego State, Southern Utah and St. Mary's, picked up Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kansas State.
Several other schools expressed interest in 6-0 point guard Kevin Woodberry (Phoenix, Ariz.), but he's pretty much committed to BYU.
Campbell, Grambling State and Southern expressed an interest in power forward Edwards, who had the game-winning basket on Sunday.
Six-foot-eight forward Drew Gaulden (Anaheim, Calif.) and 6-1 shooting guard Rod Prater (Starkville, Miss.) are both strong Div. II recruits. Gaulden is scheduled to visit Div. II powerhouse Georgetown (Kentucky) this weekend.
Kidder's cupboard isn't bare for next season. For starters, there is the 48-game home winning streak that Dixie enjoys in St. George. Key reserves -- 6-4 shooting guard Joshua Chambers, 6-7 forward Terren Harbut, and 6-9 center Tamsir Ba -- return for Dixie.
The loss was only the second of the season for Coffeyville, which defied quite a few odds to make it to the championship game. The tournament proved to be a great showcase for Coffeyville's top player, freshman Devin Smith, a 6-6 swingman.
Virginia and Kansas put scholarship offers on the table last week for Smith. Both Pete Gillen of Virginia and Kansas' Roy Williams were in Hutchinson to watch Smith play in the opening days of the tournament. Both offered scholarships after seeing Smith lead Coffeyville to opening-round wins.
Smith is a true freshman with a silky jumper who can transfer to a 4-year school after this season and have three years of Div. I playing eligibility. Illinois, Iowa, La Salle and UNLV have already offered him scholarships. Expect the list of scholarship offers to grow. Smith had 25 points in the final game, while his older brother, Steve, a combo forward, tallied 16.
Out West, coach Bill Brummel's Saddleback College (33-4) won its first-ever California Community College State Championship with a victory over Los Angeles City College, 76-75, on a last-second tip-in by Andre Hardwick.
L.A. City, under coach Mike Miller, utilized its own fullcourt press to take the lead, after falling behind by 17 points with nine minutes remaining. Much like Dixie's press, the L.A. City press picked up the tempo and caused turnovers, and the Cubs responded with a major run.
L.A. City had taken a 76-75 lead with 11 seconds remaining on star 6-10 freshman center Tony Key's 3-point play in the paint. But Saddleback point guard Mark Brown, who is committed to Utah State, advanced the ball upcourt, only to have his jumper blocked. Saddleback guard Chad Bigler's shot bounced straight up after hitting the rim, with the unguarded Hardwick making the last-second tip. Brown, who was named tournament MVP, had 20 points and six assists to lead Saddleback. L.A. City (31-9) was led by Key, who had 21 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. With only one sophomore (all-state forward Justice Graham) on a freshman-dominated roster, Miller's Cubs should again be one of the country's top JUCO programs next season.
David Benezra and Mark Mayemura cover the national college basketball recruiting scene at their Recruiting USA (www.recruitingusa.com) website. E-mail at: email@example.com or call (818) 783-2244 or (818) 783-2212 for subscription information.