Eight Division I women’s basketball teams will take their game to Grand Bahama Island this Thanksgiving to compete in the 3rd Annual Junkanoo Jam. With six of the field’s eight teams advancing to the 2005 NCAA Tournament, one as far as the Elite Eight, the 2005 Junkanoo Jam will again be one of the most competitive tournaments in women’s college basketball. The 2005 field includes Iowa State, NC State, North Florida, and Rutgers in the Freeport Division and Purdue, George Washington, South Carolina, and Texas in the Lucaya Division. The games for both divisions will take place November 25 -26, 2005 at St. George’s High School on Grand Bahama Island.
The 2006 tournament, includes Texas, George Washington, Purdue and South Carolina in the Lucaya Division, while Iowa State, North Carolina State, North Florida and Rutgers will compete in the Freeport Division. Each team will play two games. Teams do not cross divisions. The Lucaya Division will be first up each day 1:00p.m. through 5:00p.m.; and the Freeport Division will compete from 6:00p.m through 10:00p.m.
In the Freeport division, Rutgers brings to the Bahamas the field’s most impressive resume from the 2004-05 season, after making its fifth Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Scarlet Knights will look to the three returning starters for leadership, including Kodak Honorable Mention All-American Cappie Pondexter. As a 5-9 junior guard, Pondexter averaged a team-high 14.7 points per game, as well as 3.1 assists per game. 5-8 sophomore guard Matee Ajavon (12.4 ppg and 3.5 apg) and 6-2 senior forward Michelle Campbell (11.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) are also expected to contribute big for Rutgers. They will be joined by sophomore guard Essence Carson (6.6 ppg. 5.5 rpg), a U19 World Championship Team member for the USA.
Iowa State expects to contend for the Freeport Division championship after an impressive 2004-05 season which led to a first-round NCAA appearance. Coach Bill Fennelly was named Region Five Coach of the Year as he guided the Lady Cyclones to a 23-7 season. Iowa State lost their top three point producers to graduation and will rely on returning starters Lyndsey Medders and Megan Ronhovde for early leadership. Medders, a 5-9 junior guard, averaged 9.7 ppg and Ronhovde, a 6-1 junior forward, contributed 9.2 ppg and 5.3 rpg.
NC State travels to the Bahamas with a strong nucleus of returning players intact, including their top five leading scorers from 2004-05. The Wolfpack’s no-star roster competed in the first round of the NCAA tournament and posted a 21-8 record on the season. As All-ACC honorees last year, seniors Tiffany Stansbury (11.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and Billie McDowell (11.5 ppg, 2.0 apg) will be expected to lead the team this year. Also contributing to the Wolfpack’s success last season was ACC All-Freshman team pick Khadijah Whittington (8.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and ACC All-Defensive pick Ashley Key (8.8 ppg).
Rounding out the Freeport Division is the University of North Florida, who make their Division I debut at Junkanoo Jam 2005. Last year they competed in the Division II Peach Belt Conference, finishing with a 13-16 record. The Lady Ospreys return eight seniors, who will be expected to impart experience and leadership to the 6 incoming recruits inked for the 2005-06 season.
The Lucaya Division appears to be just as competitive as the Freeport Division, with perennially tough teams George Washington, Texas, Purdue, and South Carolina competing for the Lucaya crown. Three of the four teams in the division advanced to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament.
The George Washington Colonials bring their game back to Grand Bahama Island after competing in the inaugural Junkanoo Jam in 2003. Coach McKeown led the team to a 23-9 finish and a second round NCAA tournament appearance during the 2004-05 season. The colonials lost three starters and will look to Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year Kimberly Beck for floor leadership. Beck, a 5-8 sophomore guard, averaged 8.0 ppg and led the conference in assists at 5.12 per game last season. 5-10 junior guard Kenan Cole ( 7.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg) will also be a contributor.
Also advancing to the second round of the 2005 NCAA tournament, the Texas Longhorns will battle the field for the Lucaya division title. The Longhorns finished their season 22-9, and lost 6 seniors to graduation. Texas will look to last year’s high scorer, 6-3 junior forward Tiffany Jackson to power their offense, leading the team with 18.3 ppg and 8.7 rpg last season. Texas boasts an impressive incoming freshmen recruiting class, including 6-1 forward Ernesia Williams and 5-10 guard Erika Arriaran, both of whom were invited to participate in the U-19 USA team trials. Arriaran, named by both Parade Magazine and State Farm/WBCA as the 2005 High School Player of the Year, earned a spot on the U-19 USA World Championship team.
The Purdue Boilermakers joined Texas and George Washington with a 2nd round appearance in the NCAA tournament, losing to eventual Final Four participant Tennessee. Purdue returns four starters from last year’s 17-13 squad, as well as the top-five leading scorers on the season. The Boilermakers, under head coach Kristy Curry will look to leading scorers Erin Lawless and Katie Gearlds for offense. Lawless, a 6-2 junior forward, averaged 14.2 ppg and 5.3 rpg, while Gearlds, a 6-1 guard/forward, was just behind her at 14.1 ppg and 3.8 rpg.
Coming off of what head coach Susan Walvius called “a rebuilding year,” the University of South Carolina returns every player for a much-anticipated new season. The Gamecocks finished the 2004-2005 “baptism by fire” season with a 8-21 record. They competed in the SEC, arguably America’s toughest conference, with a roster comprised of 11 freshmen and sophomores and only one upperclassman. Coach Walvuis will look to leading scorers Lauren Simms (11.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg), a 5-9 junior guard, and Stacy Booker (8.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg) a 5-8 junior guard for early leadership.
The 2004 Junkanoo Jam champions Duke (Freeport Division) and Iowa (Lucaya Division), each earned berths into post-season play. Duke advanced as far as the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament and Iowa made it to the Final Four in the WNIT. The Junkanoo Jam perennially hosts many of the nation’s strongest teams, earning a reputation as one of the best pre-season tournaments for tough early season competition. The 2005 field appears to be the strongest yet in the three year history of the Junkanoo Jam, once again promising intense basketball competition on the courts of Grand Bahama Island.