For Immediate Release April 7, 2016
KCKCC's CHEYENNE NORTH NAMED TO ALL-AMERICAN FIRST TEAM
Blue Devil coaches provided direction after quitting basketball and working at McDonald's
Cheyenne North did it on the floor – all-conference, all-region, all-tournament and MVP in the national tournament and finally an NJCAA first team All-American.
But it was the direction, guidance and coaching she got off the floor that the Kansas City Kansas Community College sophomore credits for her success on the floor.
In fact, it was the Lady Blue Devil coaching staff that gave life to North's basketball career. "I had quit playing basketball and was working at McDonald's and UPS," says North. A graduate of Station Camp High School in Gallatin, Tenn., North was ranked the 10th best player in Tennessee and the 36th best player at her position nationally as a senior.
She was recruited by Belmont, an NCAA Division I university, but did not like it and left as well as a community college in Florida. "I had given up on the idea of playing anymore," said North. That's when KCKCC's Valerie Stambersky and assistant Shaun Birki stepped front and center. "Shaun convinced me to come here."
A starter in 30 of 32 games as a freshman, North led the Blue Devils in rebounding (7.9) and blocked shots (2.0) and was second in scoring (11.5) – thanks in no small part to Stambersky. "At one point right after Christmas I could just not play well for some reason and Coach Stambersky helped me get through that and back on the right track," says North. "I'll never forget that. It definitely was one of the big reasons I'm the player I am right now."
Things got even tougher when Stambersky stepped down and Joe McKinstry took the head coaching reins. "Me and Coach Mac have this love-hate relationship," she says. "He made me into the player I thought I was and I thought I could be. He was harder on me than any other coach. He asked me every night to be the best player on the court.
"I was off the team before our sophomore night game with Brown Mackie. We talked and things got better. It was the turning point in our relationship. Coach Mac is going to grow into a great, great coach. Us winning the national tournament had nothing to do with talent. It was everything with how hard he pushed us and made us tougher.
"Coming into the national tournament as an underdog, a reporter asked me how we made things look so easy and I said because Coach Mac had prepared us for this all year long, I don't think we realized how ready. I'm not saying it was easy but I'd look up and we'd be up 15 or 20 points."
After just six points and seven rebounds in KCKCC's 73-53 win over Waubonsee in the national tournament opener, North exploded in the second game, scoring 20 points and grabbing 19 rebounds – the third most in KCKCC history – in a 78-64 win over No. 5 Owens. Unfortunately, she also suffered a shoulder injury in the win. "I didn't think I could play. I could not lift my arm above my head. Even going into the warmups but then I got loose and as the game went on and I got an adrenalin rush, I stopped worrying about it."
Facing No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Monroe in the semifinals, North scored 13 points and had nine rebounds in an 81-59 rout and then wrapped up MVP honors with 14 points and 16 rebounds in an 81-51 victory over No. 2 ranked Illinois Central in the championship game.
One of three first team All-Americans from the tough Jayhawk Conference, North led Region VI in rebounding (10.9) and blocked shots (2.9) and finished fourth in scoring (15.4). Shooting 48.2 percent from the field, she was also second on the team in assists with 3.6 per game.
"She did drive me crazy but is very deserving," said McKinstry. "She proved on the highest stage that she is without a doubt one of the best players in the country. She's as skilled and versatile as anyone we played. A great rebounder and very good passer, she also expanded her game on the perimeter this year (14 3-pointers). But she's also very unselfish. She understands the game to where she does what's right. It's one thing for a player to have the mind set of playing unselfishly but it says even more about her that she's was willing to trust her teammates and not isolate them and try to do it on her own."
North, who will earn her AA degree in liberal arts in May, is drawing a lot of interest from four-year programs but KCKCC will always be remembered as the turning point. "Coming here made me a better person, a better player," she says. "It helped me grow as a person and you can't ask more out of a school than that. I'll never forget coming here."
North becomes the sixth KCKCC All-American and the third in three years. Cierra Gaines was named to the NJCAA first team last season and Cassidy Harbert earned honorable mention in 2014. Others earning first team All-America recognition include Aneta Kausaite (1996), Jurgita Kausaite (1997) and Stephanie Brown (2004 and 2005). "Over the summer I told Coach Stambersky this was something I really wanted to accomplish and to do it was exciting," says North.
Were it not for a Jayhawk Conference policy of submitting just three names for All-American consideration, the Blue Devils easily could have had another. Erin Anderson led the Blue Devils in scoring (15.5) and steals (119) while averaging 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
"We played against six of the other nine first team selections and I felt she was better than a lot of the 30 players on the three All-America teams," said McKinstry. "She was the leading scorer in the national tournament and a big factor in our winning. Her recruiting has gone sky high since the national tournament."
North was joined on the All-America first team by Jayhawk rivals Erica Nelson of Johnson County and Szonja Vukov of Highland. The first team also included two players from national runnerup Illinois Central, Jemia Carpenter and Destiny Ramsey, along with two other KCKCC opponents, Jolene Shipps of North Arkansas and Shanice Johnson of Monroe,.
KCKCC All-American Cheyenne North