College basketball in the United States is back.
That means that Bahamian collegiate basketball players are back in action. On Wednesday night, Kai Jones and Franco Miller Jr. were both in action for their respective schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I (DI) and both came away with wins to start the season off on the right foot.
Jones, a University of Texas Longhorns sophomore player, was spectacular in his team’s season debut. He had a perfect night from the field, scoring 14 points, in a 91-55 blowout victory for them over the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros in Austin, Texas.
Over in Fort Myers, Florida, redshirt sophomore Miller scored nine points as he and the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles won 65-56 over the Florida A&M Rattlers at home.
Mikhail McLean, assistant director for player development with the University of Houston – a Bahamian – saw his team in action. The Houston Cougars took down the Lamar University Cardinals, 89-45, in Houston, Texas.
For the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Rebels, head coach for the women’s basketball team, Bahamian Yolett “Coach Yo” McPhee-McCuin, and Bahamian guard Valerie Nesbitt were set to make their debut for their season on Wednesday night against Northwestern State University. That game was canceled earlier that day due to positive COVID-19 tests in the Northwestern State program.
For Texas, Jones was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, including some highlight plays. He did not miss from the charity stripe as he went 2-for-2. On the glass, the forward pulled down eight rebounds – all were on the defensive side of the ball. Defensively, Jones had one block.
The Longhorns starter’s production was done in 23 minutes on the floor – an impressive output given how he was used last season in his freshman year. Jones’ first points on the season came on an and-one layup with 15:18 remaining in the first half to put his team up 9-4. He sank the free throw to put his team up 10-4.
Less than a minute later, Jones was like an ‘Energizer bunny’. He grabbed a rebound then did a full sprint down the court for a thunderous dunk that forced the Vaqueros to call a timeout with 14:50 remaining. The Longhorns led 12-4 at that point. The promising big man had his own mini 5-0 scoring run.
That dunk was his first of two dunks in the first half. The second one also came on a fast break opportunity. After the Longhorns stole the ball with 8:37 remaining in the first half, the Bahamian showed his athleticism again as he sprinted up the floor for a ferocious two-handed alley-oop dunk to put his team up by 16 points, 27-11. Longhorns’ guard Courtney Ramey threw the lob for Jones.
“[It’s] something that coaches emphasize a lot to me – just run the floor as hard as I can,” Jones said.
At the intermission, the Longhorns led 45-29 – a comfortable cushion. They kept their distance from the Vaqueros in the second half where they led by double digits throughout.
Former Brewster Academy player Jones is expected to play a bigger role this season at Texas. His long wingspan added with the muscles he put on over the summer and his high motor skills make him an issue for defenders. During the summer, Jones was named to Sports Illustrated’s Top 30 2021 NBA Draft Big Board.
Next up for the Longhorns is the 2020 Camping World Maui Invitational in Asheville, North Carolina. The invitational gets underway on Monday, November 30, and wraps up on Wednesday December 2.
Miller also started in his debut for the Eagles and went 4-for-7 from the field, shooting 57.1 percent in 19 minutes of play. The shooting guard showed his range as he connected on one of his three attempts from deep. He was also able to finish with three rebounds and one assist.
The Ole Miss Rebels transfer settled in quickly for the Eagles as he scored the first two points of his team’s season with a layup just 1:20 into the game. The game was tied 2-2 at that point.
The Ratters refused to let the game get away in the first half. The Eagles went into the intermission with a slim 32-28 lead.
Miller came out and hit his only three-pointer of the game just 28 seconds into the second half. His team led 35-28 at that point.
It was a better half for him and the Eagles offensively as they outscored their opponents 33-28. Miller finished that half with seven points.
The Eagles were able to shoot 56.9 percent from the field for the game compared to the Rattlers’ 46 percent. Miller and his team had some easier buckets as they finished with 40 points in the paint while their opponents only had 14 points in the paint.
The Eagles led for 35 minutes of the game to show their dominance and held their largest lead of 17 points in the second half.
Next up for them is a home matchup against the Florida National University Conquistadors on Saturday, December 5 in Fort Myers, Florida, starting at 7 p.m.
McPhee-McCuin and Nesbitt will now look to open their season on Monday in a home game against the McNeese State University Cowboys. That game will be played at the Pavilion in Oxford, Mississippi.
For McLean and the Cougars, they will return to action today at 2 p.m., taking on the Boise State Broncos in the Southwest Showcase in Houston, Texas.