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Highland Hoops Season Previewpublished November 3, 2017
Highland Hoops Season Preview
The 2017-18 season marks the seventh year for Head Coach BJ Smith at Highland and plenty of success for the Scottie women's basketball team, including last year as the team finished 28-4 and Region VI runner-up. The win total gives the Scotties six straight years with over 24 wins, but the Scotties felt a bit disappointed in the ultimate outcome of the season, falling to Johnson County in the Region VI Championship game and just missing a trip to the National Tournament. This year, Smith expects to again make a push for a KJCCC title and National Tournament bid.
The 2017-18 Scottie women starts with the four players who return from last year's team. Leading the charge in that group is sophomore Mariane de Caravalho (6'2, Brazil) who was the KJCCC DII Freshman of the Year last season, earning first team All-KJCCC honors and second team NJCAA DII All-American status. de Caravalho led the team in scoring last year with 19.3 points per game and tallied over 20 points 16 times during the season, including a 30-point game in her first contest as a Scottie. The native of Brazil brings great versatility to the floor for the Scotties with her athleticism and agile moves creating opportunities for herself and her teammates to score, while also contributing in several other facets as she averaged six rebounds, three assists, and 2.1 steals per game last year.
Also returning is a guard duo that jumped right into the fold last year and made big impacts. Blaize Burgess (5'3, Topeka) is back, and the offense will be in her hands quite a bit as point guard. Burgess knows what Coach Smith expects of his point guard, and she looks to improve on her solid freshman campaign where she averaged 8.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. The sophomore looks to be a leader for the Scotties on and off the court, while helping orchestrate the offense. Burgess also has strong shooting capabilities and can knock down shots from 3-point distance. Niccolly Ramalho (5'5, Brazil) is also back and is another versatile player who showcases a knack to just make plays in every which way; her stat line from last year is a good indicator of that as she averaged 5.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Ramalho gives the team another player who handles the ball and moves well on the court while also being a versatile scorer. One other player returns from last year's team as Maria (Duda) Alcantara (6'0, Brazil) is back after a redshirt season last year and has a year under her belt knowing Coach Smith's system. She expects to make an impact inside as a versatile forward.
While a solid core is back, there are plenty of new faces in the mix on and off the court as the team brings in two transfers, seven freshmen, and Coach Smith has two new assistant coaches. After committing to Sam Houston State out of high school, Berniezha Tidwell (5'6, Hot Springs, AR) comes to Highland by way of Northwest Florida State College where she played last year. Tidwell played in 13 games with seven starts at Northwest Florida State and averaged 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. Coach Smith expects Tidwell to jump into the mix and be an impact player from the start of the season. As Tidwell continues to develop more confidence and find her role, she has the potential to be a strong contributor for the Scotties. Another player coming in with college experience for the Scotties this year is Sydney Brinlee (5'11, Allen, OK) who comes to Highland looking to put herself in a place to get better as a player and take her game to a new level. The Scotties’ program can be just that. Brinlee comes in after playing at Crowder College last year, averaging 6.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and Coach Smith looks for her to be a strong presence inside for Highland this year, bringing toughness to the floor and also be one of the team's top rebounders.
A group of seven freshmen enter the program looking to make an impact for the Scotties. In the backcourt, four new faces will factor in the mix. Kamryn Lemon (5’7, Sumter, SC) comes in with the capability of being a solid scorer and ball handler but is still recovering a knee injury from last year. Mackaila Palmore (5'4, Shawnee, OK), Keondra White (5'7, League City, TX) and Anna Hvichiani (5'8, Ukraine) are all eager to get on the court for the Scotties. At the forward spot, the trio of Daisah Purnell (5'10, Kansas City, MO), Tamia Victor (5'8, Emporia), and Sydney Sellers (5'11, Pawhuska, OK) look to give the Scotties depth inside and provide strong minutes.
Two new assistant coaches enter the fold at Highland this year as Coach BJ Smith brings in Donnie Woods and Bradford Zinn. Woods comes to Highland with eight years of collegiate coaching experience, most recently coaching at Motlow State where he helped the program advance to the National Tournament last year for the first time in school history. Zinn comes to the Scotties with a great strength and conditioning background and looks to help get the Scottie women in great condition for the season. Zinn founded his own company, Bigger Than A Game Elite Skill Training.
Coming off last year that ended in the Region VI Championship game, and with three of the team’s four losses coming to Johnson County, the Scotties are eager to get the season rolling as they have their sights set on getting back to the National Tournament for first time since the National runner-up finish in 2014. Highland opens the season ranked #10 in the NJCAA DII polls, looks to continue to build on its success, and again be another top team in the Jayhawk Conference and nation.
Last year marked was one of the best seasons in years for the Highland men's basketball team as it notched a record of 24-8, the program’s winningest season since 1983, as the team won Highland's first KJCCC DII Men’s Conference Championship. The Scotties also advanced to the Region VI Championship game for the first time since 2011 but came up just short of the National Tournament, falling to Johnson County after beating the Cavaliers twice during the season.
Jerre Cole enters his ninth season as Head Coach looking to build on last year's success and take it one step farther. Coach Cole brings back only two players from last year, so plenty of roles are up for grab as Coach Cole and his fifth year assistant Jon Oler look to put the pieces together for a strong team. Returning to help lead the way for Highland is the duo of Ryan Haskins (5'11, Osage City) and Leland "Trey" Harvey (6'7, Columbia, MO). Haskins is back after starting 23 of the 32 games last year and was the team's fourth leading scorer with 8.9 points per game. Haskins will be looked to for leadership as a returner and gives Coach Cole a heady player on the court who looks to make the tough plays. While he can score and shot 43.1% from three last year, he fills the stat sheet in other ways, averaging 3.5 rebounds and three assists per game and in the backcourt can handle the ball. Harvey made great improvement last year in his opportunities to get on the court as he started the final nine games of the season and 13 overall, averaging 4.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Harvey, like Haskins, will be tasked with being a leader in multiple ways but also looks to showcase his improvement from the offseason on the court, seeing an increased scoring role and overall role on the team.
Also back is Jarvis Johnson (5'10, Sumter, SC) who spent last year redshirting but soaked in all the knowledge from the Scotties games and practices and learned what Coach Cole expects from his players, and most importantly what he expects from a player in Johnson’s role as a primary ball handler. Johnson brings a hunger and passion to the game and is eager to contribute for the Scotties this year in several ways as he helps initiate the offense.
A trio of transfers come to Highland and all look to make an impact from the start. The most experience of the trio belongs to Holden Redparth (6'5, Rockville, MD) who comes to Highland by way of Monroe Community College where he played in 25 of the teams 27 games, starting 11 and averaged 9.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. Jaylin Rutherford (6'1, Fort Mitchell, AL) and Alonzo Williams (6'5, Olathe) both transfer into Highland bringing college experience to the fold. Rutherford played at Southern Union State, seeing action in 24 games, posting 3.4 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, while Williams comes in from Northwest Oklahoma State, a NCAA DII program where he averaged 1.8 points and one rebound per game in 13 games.
Five freshmen come to Highland this year and all look to make an impact and give the team depth. DJ Doakes (Tomball, TX), James Caldwell (Wichita), and Kevin Perry (Washington D.C.) add some good size at 6'5, 6'5, and 6'7 while also bringing versatility and looking to be strong rebounders and contributing to the scoring. Dylan Owen (6'0, Tannum Sands, Queensland) and Taiveyhon Mason (5'10, Hopkinsville, KY) jump into the backcourt to provide depth for the Scotties. Mason could handle the ball, while Owen brings toughness to the fold and can hit some outside shoots.
Highland finished last season with the National tournament in reach. With the strong success from last year, this year's team is eager to build on that. With key contributors back, some solid transfers in the mix, and a good group of freshmen, Highland is set up to challenge to repeat as KJCCC Conference Champs and make another run at the National Tournament as the team enters the season ranked #16 in NJCAA DII and with high expectations.