by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
First a national championship, now a dream destination.
After helping Kansas City Kansas Community College win the 2019 NJCAA DII women’s national championship, Camryn Swanson will continue her basketball career at the University of Central Missouri (UCM) in Warrensburg.
“I’ve always wanted to play in that conference (MIAA) since high school,” said Swanson, a graduate of Blue Springs High School. “That was my goal and everything just fell into place. A couple of other schools were interested but nothing that I was interested in.”
Swanson will be joined at UCM by her roommate and best friend, Nija Collier, the NJCAA DII Player of the Year for 2019.
“Nija and I went down for a visit about two weeks ago and we loved it,” Swanson said. “It’s perfect, it’s one of the top NCAA Division II programs in the country. We knew right away we were going to commit.”
KCKCC’s national championship, its second in four years, was also a factor in the decision.
“We want to win another one,” Swanson said. Central Missouri won the NCAA DII national championship in 2018 and was ranked 23rd nationally this past season before being eliminated by a 3-point shot at the horn in tournament play. Finishing 25-7, the Jennies have had only two losing seasons in 36 years.
What the Jennies will be getting in Swanson is one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in KCKCC history. Her 87 3-pointers this season are an all-time best and her 128 over her 2-year career ties her for the all-time best. Swanson had 11 games with four or more threes including one game of seven that is second best at KCKCC and another of six games. Playing in all 36 games, she averaged 8.6 points.
In the national tournament in Harrison, Arkansas, Swanson had five 3-pointers in the Blue Devils’ 82-68 win over Pima (Arizona) to get KCKCC to the semifinals. She added a trio of threes and 11 points in the championship game as the Blue Devils (32-4) destroyed Union County (N.J.) 84-59.
“Getting subbed out with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter of the national championship game and coming to the bench looking at all the sophomores I started this journey with was the most bittersweet moment I’ve ever had,” Swanson said. “Kisi (Young) and Nija are my best friends and knowing that was the last time we’ll ever play together in a game was tough. However, I couldn’t feel more blessed from this experience. All of us sophomores have a special bond, one that will last a lifetime and for that I’m grateful.”
Winning the national championship was far easier than getting to the national tourney. The Blue Devils led every game in the national by at least 20 points but to get to the national tournament required wins over two Top 10 teams – Johnson County (JCCC), which was ranked No. 1 most of the season, and No. 6 Highland.
KCKCC defeated JCCC in a pair of classic games during the regular season, 69-64 on the road and 64-60 at home to wrap up KCKCC’s first DII Jayhawk Conference championship. Facing the Cavaliers in the playoff semifinals, the Blue Devils won 79-76 in overtime on a Collier 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining.
“All the Johnson County games were crazy,” Swanson said. Beaten at Highland 94-88 two weeks earlier, the Blue Devils got even 84-71 in the regional championship game.
Swanson will major in criminal justice at UCM with a goal of going to law school and becoming an attorney.
“I’m really into civil rights,” said Swanson, who will graduate with a 3.8 grade point average.
Swanson is the first Blue Devil to be named team captain by Joe McKinstry in his four years as head coach at KCKCC.
“I have not done that in the past but I felt like her character and how she handles herself academically made her a good choice,” McKinstry said. “Camryn has a very quiet demeanor, has done everything we’ve asked, never been a problem and a fantastic teammate. I thought it was important that she represent us as our captain.”
Coming to KCKCC was “way better than expected,” Swanson said. “The national championship for sure and all the Johnson County games were memorable but all the bonds and friendships I made were really special. I think it just showed that hard work pays off – and if you’re looking for the opportunity to get better, come to KCKCC.”