Boasting one of the tallest teams in Kansas City Kansas Community College basketball history, the Blue Devils rode that size all the way to the NJCAA Division II national tournament.
Unfortunately, most of that size will be lost with the departure of four sophomores and so the hunt is on for replacing 6-6 Joe Lendway, 6-7 Armonti Shorter and 6-5 Lashawn Lewis along with 6-2 wingman Dehaven Talley. In addition, 6-6 freshman Trevor Young will not return. He will transfer to the University of Kansas to concentrate on his academics.
"It's going to be tough to lose those four sophomores because of everything that we've been through the last two years," said KCKCC Coach Kelley Newton. "They will be missed."
In those two seasons, the Blue Devils were a combined 45-20, the second best two-year record in KCKCC history. After reaching the finals of the Region VI tournament in 2015, the Blue Devils won the 2016 regional for the first time ever and advancing to the national tourney in Danville, Ill.
A Lansing graduate who started every game in his two seasons at KCKCC, Lendway led Region VI in field goal accuracy (.583) and the Blue Devils in scoring (12.9). He was also fourth in the region in rebounding at 6.5 per game. A first team All-Jayhawk and All-Region VI selection, Lendway boosted his scoring average to 15.4 in Jayhawk play.
Dehaven, who started in 14 games, averaged 8.4 points for the season but 9.8 in conference action while Shorter moved into a starting guard position the final 10 games of the season and finished with a 7.6 scoring average. He was also second in 3-point goals, netting 58 of 143 for 40.6 percent. Lewis was invaluable coming off the bench, averaging 4.7 points and 3.6 rebounds.
"A great season," said Newton. "They helped raising the bar on the program. Every year we keep getting better and this year made some history which is outstanding. We won't forget them."
The cupboard, however, will not be left bare. Not even close. Three starters return, 6-9 center Jon Murray and guards Kellan Turner and Mike Lee, along with a trio of backups, 6-9 post Donald Metoyer, 6-5 forward Stephen Moore and 6-2 guard Garrick McCuller, all, three of whom saw considerable playing time as backups.
Murray, who finished second in the region in rebounding with 7.0 per game while averaging 10.9 points, was named to the second All-Region VI second team while Turner was named to the All-Jayhawk second team. Third in scoring at 10.7 and second in assists (2.5) , Turner averaged 11.6 points in conference play. .
Joining the Blue Devils the second semester, Moore averaged 2.8 points in nine games; Metoyer 1.6 points and 1.6 rebounds in 21 games; and McCuller 1.1 points and one assist in 27 contests.
The driveshaft of the offense, Lee was one of the conference leaders with 5.8 assists a game (6.6 in Jayhawk play). He was also fourth in scoring (9.5) while leading in steals (1.8) and grabbing 3.1 rebounds a game.
"They give us a good place to be in looking forward to next year," said Newton. "It gives us a lot of experience at two good positions. Now it's a matter of us getting better and deeper. Stephen Moore had a good final day; Donald Metoyer played better down the stretch and will be getting a lot of work in the gym this summer; and Garrick McCuller showed a lot of maturity towards the end.
"Now we have to find quality pieces. This is an exciting time. Playing in the national tournament definitely helps recruiting. There's a buzz about our program when we talk to recruits – a great feeling to have."
In their two seasons at KCKCC, sophomores (from left) Joe Lendway, Dehaven Talley, Coach Kelley Newton, Lashawn Lewis and Armonti Shorter combined for a 45-20 record, the second best mark in college history. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)