Under the leadership of Head Coach Tom Barr, SW Missouri State/West Plains J.C. has become a perennial power in Region 16.
The Grizzlies have a number of sophomores hoping to move on to four-year schools in the fall. JUCO Junction takes a look at a trio of West Plains players in this report.
Jermaine Blackburn, a 6-5, 210 pound small forward from Florissant, Mo., led the Grizzlies in scoring this past season.
Blackburn averaged 15.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and one steal per game.
West Plains Asst. Coach Robert Guster told JUCO Junction that Blackburn will visit Virginia Commonwealth later this month. Tennessee Tech and Wisconsin Milwaukee are also involved with Blackburn, who will need roughly six hours in the classroom to graduate this summer.
Blackburn played well when JUCO Junction scouted him at the Meramec JUCO Shootout in St. Louis back in December. An opportunistic scorer with a nice midrange game and a knack for slashing to the hole, Blackburn needs to improve his defense for the D-I level.
David Stephens, a husky 6-6, 245 pound power forward from Chapel Hill, N.C., topped the Grizzlies in rebounding this winter.
Appearing in 23 of 31 games, Stephens averaged 11.3 points and six rebounds per game, shooting 49 percent from the floor and 57 percent from the foul line.
Stephens visited Tennessee Tech from May 9-11, and is also being recruited by SE Missouri State and Division II Tarleton State (TX).
Although he has a year to sit out, Guster said that Stephens will need 12 hours to graduate this summer. So if he wants to play right away next winter, Stephens will likely wind up going D-II.
Johnathan Byrd, a 6-7, 215 pound sophomore forward from Chicago, Ill., is hoping to bounce back on the Division I level next winter.
He came to West Plains after spending his freshman year at D-I Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.
Guster said that Troy State and Chicago State are taking a look at Byrd this spring.
Byrd appeared in 29 games for the Grizzlies, averaging 4.1 points and 2.6 rebounds. He shot 54 percent from the field and 71 percent from the foul line in 2002-2003.