NCAA: 11th Junkanoo Jam hits Freeport


Sports Reporter


A FULL slate of NCAA Division I basketball games will be in play during Thanksgiving weekend in the Bahamas, not just on the men’s side in the capital, but also at a women’s tournament in Grand Bahama.

The Bahamas Basketball Federation is hosting the 11th edition of the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Grand Bahama, November 27-30.

A field of eight teams will participate in the tournament hosted at the St George’s Gym, headlined by a pair of top 25 teams in the espnW.com poll.

The third ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers are the favourites in the Lucaya division which also includes the Southern Methodist Mustangs, Kansas State Wildcats and Virginia Cavaliers.

The Freeport division is headed by the No.14 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions and also includes the Florida Gators, Illinois State Redbirds, and Oregon State Beavers.

One of the most dominant teams in the current era of women’s NCAA basketball, The Lady Vols look to return to the Final Four for the first time in the post-Pat Summit era.

The legendary Summitt, 61, stepped down in April 2012, one year after announcing she had early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. She currently serves on staff as head coach emeritus.

Summitt led the Lady Vols to eight NCAA Championships between 1987-2008, a record second only to the 10 titles won by John Wooden at UCLA.

The Lady Vols lost floor general Kamiko Williams to the WNBA, but still have Andraya Carter who returns to the line-up after missing time due to rehab from shoulder surgery. They also boast the top recruit of the class of 2013, Mercedes Russell, a 6’6” centre who won the 2013 Gatorade National Girls High School Basketball Player of the Year award. She averaged 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 3.9 assists and 2.0 steals as a senior at Springfield High in Oregon.

The defending Big Ten champion Nittany Lions lost Alex Bentley to the WNBA but will be led by Maggie Lucas, one of the top players in the NCAA.

Last season she averaged 20.1 points per game, was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, All-Big Ten first team, Associated Press All-America Second team, and was one of 15 finalists for the Wooden Award.

There will be much to watch from a talented field of unranked teams looking to make their mark early in the year.

The Mustangs have high hopes for an experienced squad, with the return of four starters from last season, led by Conference Player of the Year Keena Mays.

The Gators return leading scorer Jaterra Bonds along with highly touted transfers Cassie Peoples and Antoinette Bannister.

The Junkanoo Jam has established a reputation for hosting elite teams with NCAA post-season pedigree. Last year’s tournament title was claimed by the Iowa State Cyclones after a thrilling 60-58 over the Illinois Fighting Illini in the championship game.

Other teams in the field included Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Loyola Marymount Lions, Texas Southern Tigers, UTEP Miners, and Arizona Wildcats.

Two of the teams in the field, Tulsa and Iowa St, advanced to the 64-team post-season NCAA tournament.

Texas Southern and Illinois advanced to the Women’s NIT. Tournament MVP Hallie Christofferson scored a game-high 18 points in the win as her squad finished the tournament undefeated.

The BBF will host the tournament in partnership with the Grand Bahama Port Authority, Grand Lucayan Resort and the Ministry of Tourism.


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