1930's - 1940's - 1950's - 1960's - 1970's - 1980's - 1990's - 2000's - 2010's |
After making history as the first national collegiate athletic organization to adopt women’s athletics in 1975, the NJCAA again leads the way as its board of directors tap Lea Plarski as its 13th president in 1990. The election of Plarski made her the first female to hold the top position of a national sports organization in the United States.
Plarski was a pioneer in women’s athletics in the NJCAA, serving as the division’s vice president for 15 years (1975-90). She championed greater opportunities for all student-athletes during her two terms as president (1990-96). Plarski’s name continues to shine in the NJCAA through the Lea Plarski Award, which was created in 1995. The award is dedicated to her 21 years of service to the NJCAA and its student-athletes. It is presented annually to a student-athlete that exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service, academic excellence, athletic ability and achievements – qualities that were the cornerstones of the Plarski era.
After winning the 1990 NCAA Championship and leading the Runnin’ Rebels to the Final Four a year later, Larry Johnson ends his collegiate career at UNLV as the 1991 John R. Wooden and Naismith College Player of the Year. Prior to UNLV, Johnson led Odessa College (Texas) to back-to-back appearances at the NJCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
On June 26, 1991, the two-time NJCAA All-American and Player of the Year was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the first pick in the 1991 NBA Draft. He would be named the 1992 NBA Rookie of the Year and played 10 seasons in the NBA with the Hornets and New York Knicks. He was a two-time NBA All-Star and also won a gold medal playing for Team USA in the 1994 FIBA World Championships.
Photo courtesy of Odessa College
After serving as the president of ABAUSA (USA Basketball) from 1974-80 and serving on the central board for FIBA (International Basketball Federation), NJCAA Executive Director George E. Killian is voted in as FIBA President in 1990 – a title he would hold for eight years. During this time, Killian plays a vital role in the success of Olympic basketball that will forever be remembered with the 1992 USA Dream Team that won gold at the 1992 Summer Olympics. In Barcelona, Killian distributed bronze medals to Lithuania during the formal award ceremony (At 3:02 of video Killian is introduced to the crowd).
Sheryl Swoopes, 1991 NJCAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, leads Texas Tech University to the 1993 NCAA Championship and earns Final Four MVP honors. Swoopes also earns NCAA Player of the Year honors from USA Today, Sports Illustrated and the Women’s Basketball News Service. Prior to Texas Tech, Swoopes was a two-time NJCAA All-American at South Plains College (Texas) and led the Lady Texans to a sixth place finish at the 1990 NJCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Swoopes would later become a women’s basketball icon. She helped lead Team USA to the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The success of that team helped spur the development of the WNBA. Swoopes was the first player ever signed to a professional contract for the WNBA in 1997 and helped lead the Houston Comets to the WNBA title that year. Her WNBA career was legendary. She was a six-time WNBA All-Star, four-time WNBA Champion, three-time WNBA MVP, three-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time WNBA scoring champion.
Swoopes led Team USA to gold medals again at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics in Sydney and Athens and is widely regarded as one of the best players in the history of women’s basketball.
Also in 1993….the NJCAA implements a new award program that aims to highlight the academic success of an entire team. The top team in each sport is then crowned the “Academic Team of the Year.” Combined with the NJCAA Student-Athletic Academic Awards, the organization recognized 1,680 student-athletes and 450 individual teams for their success in the classroom for the 2011-12 academic year.
Photo courtesy of South Plains College
Former Triton College (Ill.) and NJCAA All-American baseball player Kirby Puckett wins his sixth Silver Slugger award and leads the American League with 112 RBIs. A first-round draft pick by Minnesota in the 1982 MLB Draft, Puckett was a 10-time All-Star and led the Twins to two World Series Championships (1987, 1991). His career was cut short when he was diagnosed with glaucoma in 1996. In 2001 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.
Puckett died on March 5, 2006 from a stroke at the age of 45. He died at the second-youngest age of any Hall of Famer (behind Lou Gehrig). In 2007 Puckett was selected to the NJCAA JUCO World Series 50th Golden Anniversary Team and he still owns the JUCO World Series record for batting average (.688).
What started in 1986 with the creation of NJCAA Division II men’s basketball, spreads to baseball, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s golf and men’s and women’s soccer just 10 years later.
Today, the NJCAA sponsors divisional competition in 14 sports. Scholarships are what differentiate the three divisions of NJCAA competition. Division I programs can offer full scholarships (tuition, room/board, books, fees). Division II programs can offer only partial scholarships (tuition and fees) and Division III programs are not permitted to offer athletic scholarships and are often described as ‘non-scholarship’.
Crystl Bustos leads Palm Beach Community College (Fla.) to the 1996 NJCAA Softball Championship and is named Tournament MVP. A year later, Bustos posts a .645 batting average with 122 RBI’s. Both marks still stand as single-season records for NJCAA Division I softball.
After Palm Beach, the two-time NJCAA All-American becomes USA Softball’s most prolific hitter from 1999-2008. During that span she led Team USA to gold medals at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics as well as the silver medal in 2008 and shined brightly on the world’s largest stage. During her first Olympic Games in Sydney, she led Team USA with 10 hits, three home runs and five runs scored. Four years later in Athens, she belted five home runs and had 10 RBIs. At Beijing in 2008, she led Team USA and set a new Olympic record with six home runs and tied her previous record of 10 RBIs. In addition, Bustos was part of USA Softball teams that won gold medals at the Pan American Games in 1999, 2003 and 2007 as well as the 2006 ISF World Championship.
Now retired, Bustos currently devotes her time to teaching the game of softball to the next generation of players. In May of 2012, she was the keynote speaker at the NJCAA Division I Softball Championship Banquet. For more visit www.gotbustos.com.
Kurt Budke leads the Trinity Valley Community College (Texas) women’s basketball program to the 1997 NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship with a 79-69 victory over Central Florida Community College. At the time, TVCC was just the second program in NJCAA history to repeat as Division I women’s basketball champions and the first to win three national titles in a four-year span (1994, ’96, ’97). Budke’s ’97 team was led by future WNBA All-Star Betty Lennox.
Budke - who also spent two seasons as the head coach Allen County Community College (Kan.) - would lead TVCC to a runner-up finish in 1998 and another national championship in 1999. TVCC’s six straight appearances in the national championship game during that time still stands as an NJCAA record.
Budke’s coaching success continued at the NCAA Division I level at Louisiana Tech and Oklahoma State. He tragically died in a plane crash on Nov. 11, 2011 on a recruiting trip with OSU assistant coach Miranda Serna who was a key player on TVCC’s 1996 national championship team.
A native of Salina, Kan., Budke was a former NJCAA student-athlete, earning all-conference honors in basketball at Barton Community College (Kan.) in 1981. Due to his impact on NJCAA basketball and his strong ties to Salina, the basketball court at the Bicentennial Center - which hosts the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship - was named in his honor in March 2012.
Photo courtesy of Trinity Valley CC Sports Information
Indian Hills Community College (Iowa) wins the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship for the second consecutive season. With a perfect 38-0 record, the Warriors become just the eighth team in NJCAA history to win a men’s basketball national championship with an undefeated record.
In addition, IHCC won its final 34 games en route to the 1997 national title. Combined with 38 straight wins for the 1997-98 season and another 17 to start the 1998-99 season, the Warriors won 89-straight games to set an NJCAA record that still stands today. Even more impressive, Indian Hills won three-consecutive national championships during this span (1997, ’98, ’99) – a feat that has not been accomplished before or after in NJCAA men’s basketball.
Former NJCAA basketball player Avery Johnson (New Mexico Junior College) makes the game-winning shot for the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the New York Knicks. Johnson played in 22 NBA seasons and finished his career with 8,817 points and 5,848 assists. Following his playing career, Johnson was the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks from 2005-08. He led the Mavericks to their first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals in 2006 where they fell to the Miami Heat. Despite losing in the finals, Johnson was named the 2006 NBA Coach of the Year. He most recently was the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets (2010-2012).
Also in 1999, the NJCAA’s Division I Baseball All-American team features future MLB All-Stars Albert Pujols (Maple Woods Community College, Mo.), John Lackey (Grayson County College, Texas) and Mark Burhle (Jefferson College, Mo.).