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Former NJCAA First-Team All-American Steve Francis is named NBA Rookie of the Year after leading the Houston Rockets with 18 points and 6.6 assists per game. Francis is also named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team and is the runner-up in the Slam Dunk Contest that season.
After spending the 1996-97 season at San Jacinto College (Texas), Francis transferred to Allegany College of Maryland where he earned All-America honors in 1997-98. Moving on to the University of Maryland for one season, Francis earned All-ACC first-team honors while leading the Terrapins to a school-record 28 wins and an appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16.
In the 1999 NBA Draft, Francis was selected by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the second-overall pick before being traded to Houston prior to the start of the season. Francis would go on to be a three-time All-Star – playing for the Rockets, Orlando Magic and New York Knicks.
Photos courtesy of Allegany College of Maryland and Houston Rockets
In his first Major League season, former NJCAA All-American first baseman Albert Pujols is selected to the NL All-Star team, wins the Silver Slugger award and is named NL Rookie of the Year. Pujols sets records for most RBIs by a NL rookie (130), most extra-base hits by a rookie (83) and becomes the St. Louis Cardinals’ first rookie to make the All-Star Game since 1955.
In the spring of 1999, Pujols graduated high school early and enrolled at MCC-Maple Woods. In his first collegiate game, Pujols hit a grand slam and converted an unassisted triple play. Pujols went on to earn NJCAA All-America honors that season before being drafted by the Cardinals.
Pujols is now a nine-time All-Star, three-time NL MVP, six-time Silver Slugger, two-time Gold Glover, two-time NL home run champion and led the Cardinals to World Series crowns in 2006 and 2011. Pujols is also the only player in the history of baseball to hit 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and bat for a .300 average in each of his first 10 seasons.
Photos courtesy of MCC Maple Woods and St. Louis Cardinals
Former NJCAA All-American tight end Jeremy Shockey is awarded NFL Rookie of the Year, named first-team All-Pro and plays in the Pro Bowl. In his first season with the New York Giants, Shockey hauls in 74 catches for 894 yards and two touchdowns.
Playing one season at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Shockey was a third-team All-America selection for the 1999 season. Shockey went on to the University of Miami where he would lead the Hurricanes to the 2002 BCS National Championship. Leading the Hurricanes with 45 receptions for 604 yards and eight touchdowns that season, Shockey was a first-team All-American and declared early for the draft.
Taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, Shockey went to the Giants where he would spend six seasons and make four Pro Bowl appearances. Shockey earned two rings during his 10-year NFL career, winning Super Bowl XLII with the Giants and Super Bowl XLIV with the New Orleans Saints.
Former San Jacinto College (Texas) baseball coach Wayne Graham directs the Rice Owls to their first ever NCAA national championship. Graham is the winningest coach in Rice history and the title still stands as the school’s only national championship in a team sport.
In 11 seasons at San Jacinto, Graham built the Gators into the most dominant program in NJCAA history. From 1984-90, San Jacinto won five national championships and claimed seven-consecutive 50-win seasons. Under Graham’s tenure, several Gators went on to have successful professional careers including pitchers Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
Graham was a five-time NJCAA Coach of the Year and was named Junior College Coach of the Century by Collegiate Baseball. Named to the NJCAA Hall of Fame in 1995, Graham was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.
Photos courtesy of San Jacinto College and Rice University
George E. Killian steps down as Executive Director of the NJCAA, ending a historical 35-year tenure that changed the face of junior college athletics. Associate Executive Director Wayne Baker is named Killian’s replacement, becoming the organization’s second-ever Executive Director.
A living legend, Killian paved the road for the NJCAA to become America’s leader in two-year collegiate athletics. Killian spearheaded the organization’s creation of the nation’s first collegiate women’s division and played a major role in the growth of the organization’s marquee championships – the NJCAA Basketball National Championship in Hutchinson, Kan., and the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
Baker would serve the NJCAA as Executive Director for five years after spending 10 in the associate’s role. Leading the charge in strengthening eligibility standards, gender equity, growth of membership and increased student-athlete participation, Baker’s mark on the NJCAA is still engrained in the association’s success today.
Killian photo by Rob Miskowitch...Baker photo from NJCAA Archives
In the New England Patriots’ 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, former Jones County Junior College (Miss.) wide receiver Deion Branch is named Super Bowl MVP. Branch totals 133 yards receiving while his 11 catches ties a Super Bowl record.
Also in 2005, former Jefferson College (Mo.) ace Mark Buehrle becomes the first pitcher to start and save consecutive games in the World Series since New York Yankees pitcher Bob Turley in 1958. The Chicago White Sox hurler starts Game 2 against the Houston Astros at home. Two days later in Houston, Buehrle enters Game 3 in the bottom of the ninth for the final out of the game. Buehrle and the White Sox go on to win the championship in six games.
Also in 2005, the NJCAA unveils their new logo designed by member school, Fashion Institute of Technology (N.Y.).
South Plains College (Texas) distance runner Sally Kipyego wins the Betty Jo Graber award as the NJCAA’s top female student-athlete. Kipyego sets NJCAA national championship records in the 1,500-meter run (4:22.53) and the 5,000-meter run (16:48.40).
Following a successful career at South Plains, Kipyego moved on to Texas Tech University where she became the first Kenyan woman to win a NCAA cross country national championship in 2007. Kipyego won the USTFCCCA Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year award that year and was named NCAA Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year in 2008. At the conclusion of her career at Texas Tech, Kipyego had accumulated nine NCAA national championships.
Competing for her native country of Kenya at the 2012 Olympic Games, Kipyego won the silver medal in the 10,000-meter run.
Photos courtesy of South Plains College and Texas Tech University
The NJCAA Baseball World Series celebrates its 50th Anniversary, remembering the great moments of the national tournament held since 1958. Chipola College (Fla.) made history, winning their first national championship with a 7-3 victory over New Mexico Junior College.
In its first 50 years of existence, the NJCAA World Series saw some of the greatest players in the history of the game take the field. Notable players included Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett (Triton College, Ill. – 1982), World Series MVP Curt Schilling (Yavapai College, Ariz. – 1986), Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne (Seminole State, Okla. – 1995) and Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee (Meridian CC, Miss. – 1998).
Former Meridian Community College (Miss.) pitcher Cliff Lee wins the AL Cy Young Award, Warren Spahn Award and AL Comeback Player of the Year. Pitching for the Cleveland Indians, Lee led the American League with a 2.54 ERA and 22 wins.
Lee was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 20th round of the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft but decided to begin his collegiate career at Meridian. That season, Lee anchored the Eagles’ run to the NJCAA Baseball World Series where they won two of their four games.
Now in his 12th Major League season, Lee has established himself as one of the game’s top left-handed pitchers. In each of the last three seasons, the three-time All-Star has finished with an ERA under 3.20 and has accumulated over 180 strikeouts. After being traded to Texas just before the All-Star break in 2010, Lee played a vital role in leading the Rangers to their first-ever World Series.
Photo courtesy of Meridian Community College
Future Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton leads the Blinn Buccaneers to their fourth NJCAA football national championship. Against Fort Scott CC (Kan.) in the Citizen’s Bank Bowl, Newton throws for 111 yards and rushes for 99 yards and a touchdown en route to a 31-26 victory.
Newton would go on to become the starting quarterback at Auburn in 2010 where he led the Tigers to a 14-0 undefeated season and the BCS National Championship. That season, Newton threw for 2,908 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 1,586 yards and 24 touchdowns. Winning the vote by a landslide, Newton became the third former NJCAA student-athlete to win the Heisman Trophy.
Declaring for the NFL Draft following his junior year, Newton was taken with the first overall pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2011. In his rookie season, Newton was named NFL Rookie of the Year after becoming the first rookie quarterback in history to throw for 4,000 yards.
Also in 2009, Wayne Baker steps down as NJCAA Executive Director and is replaced by Mary Ellen Leicht. Leicht becomes the first female chief executive of any national collegiate athletics organization in the United States.
Newton photo by Charlie Kelm, Blinn College