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October 30, 2013BLUE DRAGON MEN'S BASKETBALL OPENS AT NO. 4 IN NJCAA POLL
The defending Region VI men's basketball champion Hutchinson Community College Blue Dragons have lofty expectations placed upon them this season.
Two weeks ago, the Blue Dragons were tapped as the preseason favorite to win the 2014 Jayhawk Conference Western Division championships. On Tuesday, HCC was No. 4 in the NJCAA Division I Preseason Men's Basketball Poll.
Hutchinson was ranked No. 6 by the Sporting News in that publication's preseason junior college poll.
The Blue Dragons come off a 31-4 season where they finally snapped a 17-year drought of not playing in the NJCAA Tournament with a convincing run through the Region VI Tournament. The Blue Dragons earned one of the national top eights seeds, but were defeated by Howard College in the second round.
This is the third time in fifth-year head coach Steve Eck's tenure at HCC this his Blue Dragons have started the season ranked in the preseason poll. Last season HCC was No. 13 to start the season. Eck's 2010-11 team also started fourth in the nation.
The Blue Dragons return one starter and three letter winners from last year's regional championship team. The list of newcomers is highly touted, but untested.
Sophomore guard Kadeem Allen (6-3, 175, Wilmington, N.C., simply had one of the best freshman seasons in the storied history of Blue Dragon basketball, and he was rewarded for his efforts.
Allen was named both the Jayhawk West Player and Freshman of the Year, All-Region VI first team, All-Region VI Tournament team and two big ones - NJCAA first-team All-American and NABC All-American.
Allen scored the sixth-most points ever by a Blue Dragon freshman (571 points) and had the fifth-highest freshman scoring average (17.3 ppg). Allen shot 44 percent from the field, 32.6 percent from 3-point range and 72.4 percent from the foul line. He had nine game of 20 or more points and two of 30 or more. Allen led the league in steals (2.45/game) and was third in assists (3.9/game).
Earlier this fall, Allen was named the Sporting News Preseason Player of the Year for junior college basketball. On Monday, Allen announced his intentions to sign with Arizona.
Sophomore forward Tafari Whittingham (6-7, 205, Stratford, Conn., ad ups and downs during his freshman season, but with that upside, there were flashes of dominance. Whittingham averaged 7.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game as a freshman. He shot 50.3 percent from the field. Whittingham will have to become a defensive stopper. He had just 18 blocked shots last season.
He announced on Monday his plans to sign with South Alabama.
The Blue Dragons also return guard Nathan Jackson (6-6, 215, Wichita); put a ton of work in this offseason to put himself in position to be a key contributor for the Blue Dragons this season. Playing in 32 games as a freshman, starting one, Jackson averaged 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds. He shot 47.8 percent overall.
Hutchinson opens the season this weekend with the annual HCC Quarterback Classic at the Sports Arena. The Blue Dragons will play Trinidad State on Friday and Labette on Saturday. Game times each night are at 7:30 p.m.
2013-14 NJCAA DIVISION I MEN'S BASKETBALL PRESEASON POLL
Team 2012-13 Record
1. College of Central Florida 34-3
2. Indian Hills CC 26-4
3. Vincennes University 33-4
4. Hutchinson CC 31-4
5. Spartanburg Methodist College 35-1
6. Kilgore College 27-6
7. Chipola College 26-5
8. Iowa Western CC 32-3
9. South Plains College 22-8
10. Northwest Florida State College 30-4
11. East Mississippi CC 20-8
12. New Mexico Junior College 27-7
13. College of Southern Idaho 20-12
14. Lee College 25-11
15. Coffeyville CC 32-3
16. Howard College 30-6
17. Salt Lake CC 299-5
18. East Georgia State College 31-3
19. Odessa College 24-8
20. ASA College 24-8
21. Sheridan College 24-7
22. Western Oklahoma State College 20-11
23. Tallahassee CC 15-13
24. Southwest Tennessee CC 12-11
25. North Platte CC 30-6