KCKCC's CIERRA GAINES NAMED TO NJCAA ALL-AMERICAN FIRST TEAM
Kansas City Kansas Community College has its fifth women's basketball All-American – sophomore scoring leader Cierra Gaines.
A 5-7 guard from Glen Carbon, Ill., Gaines was named to the 10-member NJCAA Division II All-American first team. She's the second Lady Blue Devil in two years to earn Division II All-America. Cassidy Harbert, KCKCC's all-time career leader in assists, was named to the All-American Honor Roll as a freshman last year.
Aneta Kausaite was KCKCC's first All-American, earning first team Division I honors in 1996, and was joined by her twin sister, Jurgita, as a first team selection in 1997. They were joined by Stephanie Brown, a Division I honorable mention pick in 2005.
A starter in all 32 games, Gaines led the Blue Devils in scoring with a 14.1-point average and in 3-point goals with 51. She was also second in assists (2.5) while averaging 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals a game in helping lead the Lady Blue Devils to a 28-4 record. Tying the KCKCC record for the second most wins in a single season, the Blue Devils also tied for first in the regular season Division II standings and second in the Jayhawk Conference.
"A great athlete, probably one of the most talented players to come through the program since I've been here," said KCKCC Coach Valerie Stambersky. "Well deserving of the honor, I'm very proud and happy for her."
For her play, Gaines was named Player of the Year in Division II, second team All-Jayhawk Conference and ultimately first team All-American. "I was shocked and happy at the same time but it was certainly unexpected," says Gaines. On April 15, Gaines will sign with the University of Central Missouri.
Success has followed Gaines at every level. In three seasons at Edwardsville High School in Illinois, her teams compiled a 93-9 record and advanced to the super-sectional each year. A starter as a freshman at Merimac Community College in St. Louis, she averaged 12.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in helping Merimac reach the NJCAA national tournament in 2012.
Her intentions after her freshman year were to try out for a semi-pro team only to find out that would make her ineligible for any further collegiate competition. "I was really unfocused at the time and trying to find myself," said Gaines, who took a job and sat out the entire 2012-13 season despite knowing she wanted to continue to play at the college level.
Ranked by the "Girls Basketball Report" as the No. 1 sophomore in the nation at the NJCAA Division II level and the 29th best overall community college player in the nation, Gaines came to KCKCC in the Spring of 2014 with former Edwardsville teammate Erin Anderson. While not eligible, Stambersky credited Gaines and Anderson for helping lay the groundwork for the 2014-15 season.
"They came in the spring knowing they were not going to play," says Stambersky. "We've had others come in and just go through the motions but Erin and Cierra came in and helped us get better by pushing everyone to be better."
"It was a good transition," says Gaines. "I had to get used to playing again and without it I would not have had the experience or the opportunity to sign with Central Missouri."
Gaines started her KCKCC career by scoring in double figures in her first 19 games and was in double figures in all but five of 32 games. Highlights included coming from 11 points back at halftime to hand eventual national champion Johnson County its first defeat at JCCC 73-64 and a 54-53 win at Highland, a game in which the Blue Devils trailed 28-14 at the half. "It was a great season; I just wished it could have gone farther," says Gaines.
Gaines will major in Criminal Justice at Central Missouri. "I loved it the first time I went down for a game," she says. "I really like the coaches and the campus so I'm real excited."