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MURRELL COLUMN: The fun of junior college basketball

The pace of the game is seemingly twice that on the four-year college level. Seemingly.

The points come in abundance. The hustle never stops. Someone in almost every junior college game is earning his ticket to a Division I roster.

This perfectly describes Lamar State College Port Arthur basketball.

Almost two weeks ago, I was reminded how a junior college game goes. Sit at the front table, and chances are a player will crash into you chasing a loose ball.

It happened to me, and I appreciated the hustle.

The NJCAA — or National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association — rules are similar to the NCAA’s, although the play is so much different. Teams move the ball quicker and drive to the basket more in the junior college game. On the collegiate level, one coach has a little more time to see how the opposing team moves the ball, even though the shot clocks on both levels are the same (30 seconds).

As a basketball nut, those are just my observations.

Seahawk basketball is not my first rodeo in the junior college level. Thinking back on my days covering Mississippi Delta Community College, Blue Mountain Community College in Oregon and Murray State College in Oklahoma over the years, I’ve come to this conclusion:

The JUCO realm is full of guys working hard to take their game to the next level. (That’s obvious, but important to remember.) Everyone’s talents are meshed together in a way that gives each team its unique identity, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a game where you don’t have at least three players on one team taking the game over.

They don’t do it out of selfishness. Again, each teammate realizes the strengths of others and creates opportunities to score.

We know that’s the case in the NCAA. The great programs reload every season with seven or eight blue-chip standouts and other key role players. Many of the blue chips are straight out of high school and put in a pool where they have to make plays with underclassmen.

Scouting the opposing stars and setting the right defense against them are at a premium because so much pride is on the line. Take away the ball-handlers or the scorers, and you have a chance to win.

That’s the plan on all levels of basketball, but people go to a game to see standouts stand out.

LSCPA has plenty of them — John Comeaux, for example — and that’s why their style of play flow so well. Twice the Seahawks have scored more than 100 points and three more times they’ve netted 90. Comeaux scored 47 points earlier this month on his way to a national player of the week award.

But, wouldn’t you know it, the Seahawks’ 81.9 points per game ranks 10th out of 14 teams in Region XIV. Traditional power Trinity Valley CC scores 101.2 per game.

That’s some serious ball.

TVCC’s average beats NCAA leader The Citadel’s 95.7, while LSCPA would be ranked 29th in Division I. Lamar University, in comparison, leads the Southland Conference at 79.1.

Trinity Valley’s 161-158 five-overtime win over Daytona (Fla.) State College made a big difference. The game was tied at 94 through regulation, meaning those Cardinals outscored Daytona 67-64 in just 20 extra minutes.

Just for the record, TVCC has exceeded 100 points in 11 of 19 games so far. Try keeping pace with that team.

If you do, you’ll understand how serious — and exhilarating — the junior college game is.

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or at ic.murrell@panews.com. On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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