HUTCHINSON, Kan.- One of the biggest questions headed into the NJCAA Division One National Championship was answered in just the third game of the tournament Tuesday afternoon. The College of Southern Idaho won't be repeating after they dropped a first round game to Eastern Oklahoma 76-69. While CSI fell, the nation's number one and three ranked teams -- South Plains and Monroe College -- were among those that advanced and Monroe's Orlando Sanchez was among the day's stars.
Sanchez a big attraction
Based in New Rochelle, N.Y., Jeff Brustad's Monroe College team is good. Actually they are real good. Ranked number three nationally in the final NJCAA poll, they have very good guards, tough wings, are well coached and feature perhaps the single most versatile big man in junior college basketball in 6-foot-8 forward Orlando Sanchez.
During their first round game in Hutch, Monroe faced a tough foe when they squared off with seventh ranked Indian Hills. With 18 points , 12 rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists, Sanchez was a big part of his squad's 81-69 win.
He handled the ball in open space, soared above the rim for dunks, made up for defensive mistakes with his shot blocking and did all the things that coaches from schools like St. John's, Providence, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and many other programs have grown to love about him.
"I think that coaches like his versatility," said Brustad. "He's got a high level ability to defend. He blocks shots, he rebounds and he's an athlete who can run the floor."
While Sanchez was able to score a bit on Tuesday, that's not always his game.
"He's not a high level scorer right now," said Brustad. "But he's a very nice complimentary player and he makes plays for other guys with his passing ability and can score some when needed."
A native of the Dominican Republic who has only been in the States for about a year and a half, Sanchez had the opportunity to play with his country's national team over the summer.
"He's gotten much better with his decision making," Brustad told Rivals.com. "Playing in the summer with Dominican national team helped. He had to play some at the guard and that really helped his overall game."
Buzz amongst college coaches around the Hutchinson Sports Arena Tuesday had Sanchez leaning towards St. John's or Providence. His coach wouldn't confirm any leaders, but did say that his player is likely to remain in the East and also talked about what will be important in the decision making process.
"I think that the people around him will want him to stay near the East Coast," said Brustad. "I don't think they are worried about playing time because that stuff will work itself out. Academic support is going to be a big thing for him with the language and needing the support for him with English being his second language."
Tuesday's other shooting stars
While Orlando Sanchez is attracting plenty of attention, he wasn't the only stud for Monroe College on Tuesday. Combo guard Davon Marshall looks like a terrific get for Liberty and the six-footer lit up the scoreboard on Tuesday going for 34 points. He hit pull-ups, contested threes, got to the rim and played with the heart of a lion. Point guard Drimir Ferguson isn't huge, but he's quick, plays with intensity and stays under control and looks to be a great get for North Carolina Central. Freshman big man Maurice Ndour is a guy that will be making noise next year. At 6-foot-8 he runs the floor, is a bouncy athlete and gets on the glass. He already has offers from St. John's, Providence and Cincinnati among others per his coaches.
Top ranked South Plains was able to fight off Eastern Mississippi late to score a 71-63 first round victory. Recent Ole Miss commitment Marshall Henderson struggled from the field in front of his future head coach Andy Kennedy but his teammates made up the slack. Combo forward Stanton Kidd was all over the floor scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds and is a flat out steal for North Carolina Central. Freshman big man Yanick Moreira will likely be one of the most highly recruited junior college players in the country next year. At about 6-foot-10, he's a swift athlete who gets from rim to rim, blocks shots, rebounds and has developing scoring. He finished his day with 11 points, 10 blocks and four rebounds and looks to be a surefire high major target.
* East Mississippi's Colin Borchert is an intriguing option at the power forward for schools looking for a faceup guy. The Arizona native can shoot with range out to the three point line, handles the ball fairly well and will get on the glass some. He's got programs on the mid to high major levels evaluating and has been seen or contacted by schools like Arkansas, Xavier, Western Kentucky, South Alabama and more.
Probably the most impressive - and certainly most productive - freshman of the day was Indian Hills forward Jameel McKay. A wiry and long 6-foot-7 forward, the Milwaukee native has a great motor, athleticism and a nose for the ball. He's relentless in his pursuit of rebounds, is a full court athlete, defends and competes. A no brainer on the high major level, he'll be one of the nation's top junior college players next season.
South Carolina State has done very well for itself in securing commitments from the Eastern Oklahoma duo of Therone Chilton and Marcus Tarrance. Chilton is a 6-foot-2 combo guard with range while Tarrance is an athletic 6-foot-5 wing who does a little bit of everything. The duo was huge in Eastern's win over defending champs CSI scoring 16 and 26 points respectively.
Three Rivers fell to Spartanburg Methodist in what was an ugly game. However, 6-foot-5 wing Tairus Johnson was impressive going for 34 points and 11 rebounds as several mid-majors scrambled for info. A tough competitor with an inside/out game, he was 12-25 from the field but his teammates only connected on 9-38 field goals. For Spartanburg, freshman swingman Ronnell Crockett was big going for 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead his team to the 61-58 win.
Seward County is a team that is known for their guards like Omaha native Deverall Biggs. But, it was insider Daveon Boardingham that carried the load on Tuesday night in a win over Wallace State. Facing a bigger frontline, the bullish 6-foot-7 post player went right at his defenders and was very efficient around the rim. A strong kid who isn't afraid to grind it out on the block, he also has touch to face up and hit some jumpers. He didn't get every rebound, but his physicality knocked other guys out of the way and allowed his team to compete on the glass against a bigger squad. He finished with 23 points and five rebounds.
JUCO Nationals heavily attended by college coaches
The coaching turnout for day one of the NJCAA Tourney was incredible. The number of division one programs in the house likely reached into the triple digits -- including at least 20 or so head coaches. Here's a list of some of them that Rivals.com spotted. St. John's, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, East Tennesse State, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Liberty, Creighton, Loyola, Maryland, Cal State Bakersfield, Western Kentucky, UIC, Kansas State, Wichita State, Stephen F. Austin, BYU, Arkansas Pine Bluff, South Alabama, Louisiana Tech, Bradley, UT Arlington, Alcorn State, Missouri State, Houston, Sam Houston, Northern Arizona, Oral Roberts, Charlotte, UMKC, East Tennessee State, Dayton, Auburn, Missouri, DePaul, Central Arkansas, UTSA, Murray State, LSU, Connecticut, Cal Poly, West Virginia, Howard, South Dakota State, Quinnipiac, Wright State, Towson, Charleston Southern, Iona, Alabama A&M, Gonzaga, High Point , TCU, UNC Greensboro, Pittsburgh, Utah State, Eastern Kentucky, Fresno State, Marshall, Louisiana Monroe, Idaho, St. Bonaventure, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Iona.