Kilgore College has one won championship this season, and now they’re looking for something even bigger.
The Rangers, as Region XIV Conference champions, are headed to the NJCAA Men’s National Basketball Tournament, and they found out Sunday afternoon their seed, their opponent, and the game time and date.
KC will be in the tournament’s very first game on Monday, April 19, at 10 a.m. against home-team Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College – they’re playing on their own home court, the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
All tournament games will be streamed live on the NJCAA’s website, njcaa.org/network.
Out of 24 teams – 16 conference champions and eight at-large seeds – KC is seeded 17, and Hutch 16. Hutch is 18-6, very similar to KC’s 18-5.
It’s the Rangers’ second tournament appearance in seven years: they went to Hutchinson in 2013, won one game and then lost (see more below).
Coach Brian Hoberecht’s Rangers have won nine straight games, beating tough conference rivals Blinn, Navarro and Trinity Valley to collect that Region XIV title.
The winner of the KC-Hutch matchup will have an even-bigger challenge: Mineral Area College, from Park Hill, Missouri. Mineral Area is the number one overall seed in the tournament; they’re 23-0 and also the only team in the tournament to be undefeated.
To make things even more challenging, Mineral Area has a first-round bye, as do all the top eight seeds. So they will watch while KC and Hutch battle it out for the right to knock off Mineral Area.
Mineral Area is also seeking to be the first undefeated national champion since South Plains did so in 2012.
The Rangers’ roster for the 2021 season: Dantwan Grimes (1), a 6-foot-2 freshman guard from Ocala, Fla.; Tysen Banks (2), a 6-foot sophomore guard from Memphis; K.J. Jenkins (4), a 6-2, 165-pound guard from Atlanta, Ga.; Malik Grant (5), a 6-7 freshman guard from Toronto; Brendon Hoberecht (10), a 5-10 sophomore guard from Carl Junction, Mo.; Javonne Lowery (11), a 6-5 freshman guard from Pearland; Da’Sean Nelson (12), a 6-8 freshman forward from Toledo, Ohio; Duane Posey (14), a 6-7 guard/forward from Memphis; Jasiah Wright (21), a 5-10 freshman guard from Longview; Stephan Morris (22), a 6-8 sophomore forward from Houston; Dylan Cabs (23), a 6-8 freshman guard/forward from Bell Flower, Calif.; Godwin Illymoka (24), a 6-3 freshman guard from Toronto; Paul Otieno, a 6-8 freshman forward from Nairobi, Kenya; Justin Crawford (42), a 6-2 freshman guard from Mansfield; and Michael Okoye (44), a 6-8 sophomore forward from Anambra, Nigeria.
In 2013, KC was paired against Shelton State, a junior college program in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Rangers won that game, 80-58, advancing to the next round to face a Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist team that was 32-0 going into that game.
Spartanburg Methodist, the tournament’s number two seed, did take KC out, 53-51, but had to bring their lunchpails to do it – KC made them work until the very end.
That game, Quinton Upshur led the Rangers with 15 points, and Lonnie McClanahan added eight.
KC finished that 2013 season with a 27-6 record. It was the Rangers’ first trip to nationals since 1994. “"We're very proud to be 27-6 and have a season where we made it to the national championships; and we've got a situation where we can build on the foundation of this," Hoberecht said, after the loss.
Hoberecht has been guiding the Rangers since the 2008 season, and is in his 21st season as a head coach, having coached eight seasons at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College before his arrival in Kilgore.
His oldest son, Brendon, is a member of the Rangers, and his youngest son, Isaac, is a senior at Kilgore High School, having just helped the Bulldogs to the third round of the UIL Class 4A playoffs.
Hoberecht is assisted by Jake White, Cody McCoy and Mike Randle.
White played basketball four years as a student at Longview High School and has been an assistant for the Rangers for four years. He actually played his collegiate career at New Mexico Military Institute – they’re in the football conference with Kilgore College.
He also played at the University of Texas at Tyler, and Texas A&M-Kingsville. He has also coached at a few stops, including New Mexico Military and at Boise State University, in the 2016-17 season.
McCoy, a Martin’s Mill native and MMHS graduate, is in his second year on the Rangers’ basketball staff. He’s a Baylor Universtiy alum, and he was part of the player development and scouting department for the Bears before arriving at KC.
Randle came to KC before this season as an assistant coach at DME Sports Academy in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he was recognized nationally. He’s originally from Houston, and graduated from Houston Madison in 2009. He also attended Houston Chavez for three seasons.
If his name is familiar, it’s because he once faced the Rangers as a standout for Paris Junior College from 2010-12.