by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Kansas City Kansas Community College’s defending Jayhawk Conference champions have been voted the team to beat in the 2021 men’s basketball pre-season poll.
Jayhawk coaches voted the Blue Devils No. 1 followed by Johnson County, Highland, Labette, Fort Scott and Hesston. Labette, the defending Region VI champion, was tabbed No. 1 in the women’s poll followed by Johnson County, KCKCC, Highland, Fort Scott and Hesston.
The KCKCC men return five veterans from the 2019-20 team that won the Jayhawk championship for the first time ever. The Blue Devils (18-13) finished 8-2 in conference play and won 16 of their last 21 games on the way to winning the NJCAA DII Region VI championship and KCKCC’s second berth in the national tournament, a tournament canceled by the COVID pandemic.
Starters returning include 6-7 forward Robert Rhodes, the Defender of the Year in the conference and runaway leader in rebounds and blocked shots; 6-0 guard Deron McDaniel, the team’s second leading scorer and assist leader; and point guard DeAngelo Bell, who was second in assists. Jermaine Yarbough, a 6-8 forward who was second in rebounding as the league’s best sixth man, is also back along with 3-point sharpshooter Cody Dortch, who is in his third season after suffering a torn ACL 11 games into the 2019-20 season.
The KCKCC women are coming off a 25-7 season and third place finish (5-5) behind Labette and JCCC. Aliyah Myers, a 5-7 guard from Derby, returns as the only starter although the other returnees, 6-0 forward Mercer Roberts and 5-6 guards Tiara Earnest and Jada Mayberry played significant minutes in 2019-20.
Both KCKCC teams open on the road at North Central Missouri in Trenton Jan. 20 and then go to Central Community College in Columbus, Neb. Jan. 23. The Blue Devil men will open at home against Link Year Prep Jan. 25 while both teams will be host to Park University’s junior varsity Jan. 28.