They were in Garden City for the fourth annual Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Shootout, which featured several players you're sure to see playing major roles at top Division I schools in a year or two. And surely it had to be the only event in the country that offered, as the Shootout's motto says, "32 games in three days under one roof."
That's 16 men's games and 16 women's games, held in adjacent gyms, 12 of them last Saturday, and 10 more on each of the next two days. That pretty much ensured the true basketball junkie at least 10 hours of continuous basketball every day, after which we would suggest that he or she seek professional counseling.
That doesn't mean the Shootout wasn't worthwhile. "Kansas, California and Texas have the top juco basketball systems in the country," said New Mexico assistant Paul Graham. "You can come to this tournament and see just about all the [Kansas] juco talent you need to see all in one shot. It's a recruiter's dream."
That's exactly what it's intended to be. It's no coincidence that the first day of the Shootout was Dec. 1, which was also the first day of the NCAA's 10-day evaluation period, when coaches can watch players but not talk to them.
The coaches at Garden City estimated that there were roughly 15 players capable of playing for teams in major conferences and that 20 to 30 merited scholarships from lower-profile Division I teams. Opinions differed as to who the top player of the tournament was—Butler County guard Gaylon Nickerson, Allen County swingman Trasel Rone, Independence guard Eric Coates and Garden City center Frazier Johnson all had their admirers—but the player who attracted the most attention was 6'6" freshman forward Darrin Hancock, who originally signed with UNLV but ended up at Garden City Community College because of academic problems.
"Terrific player, sleek, quick," said one recruiter. "He won the dunk contests at the McDonald's and Dapper Dan [high school all-star] games, which tells you how exciting a player he is."
The crowds for the Shootout expanded and contracted according to the attractiveness of the matchups, but about 2,500 fans filled the gym to watch Hancock and Garden City take on Coates and his Independence teammates on the first day. Hancock was acrobatic, putting together 14 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, but the night belonged to Coates, who had 26 points and nine rebounds to lead Independence to a 74-71 win.
Afterward, the recruiters stood in the lobby, most of them wearing something that displayed their school's emblem, as the players walked by. The emblems were a way of ensuring that the players knew of the school's interest in them. "Great place to see talent," Graham said. "Garden City is a tough place to get to—you better like propeller planes if you want to come—but for this, it's worth it."
PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST
As an aspiring artist, Missy Sharer of Grinnell (Iowa) College deals mainly in landscapes and still lifes, but the 5'8" senior guard has also exhibited a pretty fine stroke on the basketball court. Last season, she led Division III women in three-point field goal percentage (52.5%) and finished 18th in scoring (20.5 points per game). This year she's off to a great start, averaging 32.1 points after five games.