Four sophomores from Northwest Kansas Technical College men’s basketball program will participate in the All-American JUCO Elite 80-West Showcase on July 26 and 27 in Las Vegas.
Returning sophomores Izais Hicks (Staten Island, NY) and James Sylvester (Toronto, Ontario) along with transfers De’Angelo Stewart (Detroit / Alabama State) and Mike Owona (Baltimore / Fairleigh Dickinson) will play in the two-day showcase along with other top sophomores from across the junior college basketball scene.
“It shows that we are getting guys that can compete at a high level and we are getting guys who coaches at the next level want to see play and want to recruit,” head coach Jase Herl said.
Herl and Maverick athletics director Brad Bergsma are proud of the accolades and recognition earned by his players, especially since the program is only entering its third year.
“For a program that’s only in its infancy, for our students to be noticed in this way on a national stage is tremendous and speaks volumes to what coach Herl and coach (Jeremy) Johnston have done in such a short time,” Bergsma said.
According to Herl, the 6’8” Hicks as a lengthy athlete who can run, defend and block shots while providing a solid mid-range jumper offensively. Sylvester, he said, is a six-foot guard who can get anywhere he wants to on the floor.
“De’Angelo is ultra athletic guy who can shoot the ball, rebound and is a long, rangy defender,” Herl said. “Mike is a back-to-the-basket post player who can turn over either shoulder to score. He can also knock down a 15-footer and is a big body, which is something we haven’t had in the past.”
The Mavericks are trying to build off of a 20-13 record last season and the program’s first appearance in the Region VI Tournament semifinals. All five starters from last year’s squad at the end of the season are gone, including guards Jackson Hussey and Gian Clavell.
Hussey participated in the showcase last year in Atlanta and made the top 20 all-star game at the end of the camp. Clavell is Northwest Tech’s first Division I transfer (Colorado State) and the program’s first 1,000-point scorer.
The question Herl is asked often: can this season’s talent continue and expand upon the cinderella story last year’s squad started?
“We have a talented team on paper but you never know how the team will come together like the team last year did,” Herl said. “If they buy in and are coachable, this team has a chance to be special. We must understand that what we did last year doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. It takes a ton of hard work that begins the minute kids arrive on campus this fall.”
The Mavericks will open their season at home on Oct. 31 against Lamar Community College (JV).
—This story was written and compiled by Beau Tiongson.