by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
One of the best week-long performances in Kansas City Kansas Community College women’s basketball history has earned Nija Collier NJCAA National Player-of-the-Week honors.
Also the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) Player-of-the-Week, Collier is only the second Blue Devil player to sweep the national and Jayhawk awards. Cheyenne North earned the national and KJCCC awards on the way to leading KCKCC to the NJCAA Division II national championship in 2015-2016.
Averaging 18 points, 14.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks, the 6-0 sophomore power forward from Detroit, Michigan, led the No. 9 ranked and unbeaten Lady Blue Devils (6-0) to wins over Washburn junior varsity, St. Louis Community College and North Central Missouri.
“The biggest thing is that Nija really stepped up when others were in foul trouble,” KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry said. “Not only did she stay out of foul trouble but she picked up her production. We’re very happy for her. She has worked very hard and is very deserving. She’s putting up numbers like she did in high school.”
Averaging a team high 19.8 points a game on a squad that has five players averaging in double figures and two others scoring at a 7.0 clip or better, Collier leads the nation in blocks (3.2) and is second nationally in rebounding (13.8). She also leads the Blue Devils in field goal percentage (.608), free throw percentage (.875) and 3-point percentage (.440) – and is not a starter.
Collier started the week slowly with eight points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two assists in an 86-56 win over Washburn junior varsity on Monday but then poured in 25 points including 16-of-18 free throws and grabbed 13 rebounds in the Blue Devils’ biggest early season test, an 81-65 win over St. Louis Community College on Friday.
She was even better on Saturday. Scoring 31 points including four 3-pointers, she pulled down 18 rebounds, blocked six shots and added three steals and three assists in a 109-69 win over North Central Missouri.
“One of the best individual performances I’ve seen in my four years. She gave us a spark when we needed it,” McKinstry said.
Collier had 22 points including 3-of-3 from long range, 12 rebounds and three blocks in leading KCKCC to a 52-37 halftime lead. She finished the night 9-of-14 from the field, 4-of-5 from 3-point and 9-of-9 from the foul line.
“Not only does Nija have the ability to do damage around the basket but also from the perimeter beyond the 3-point line,” McKinstry said. “And she made 27 of 29 free throws in the three games which is remarkable.”
KCKCC is back in action Thursday when the Blue Devils play host to Saint Mary junior varsity at 7 p.m. before going to Metropolitan Community College on the Penn Valley campus Saturday at 5 p.m.