More athletes choosing junior colleges

Noah Branson, Lamp staff

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SPRINGFIELD — Like any other college, sports are an important activity at Lincoln Land Community College. However, the flocks of talent that are finding their way to junior colleges everywhere is something relatively new in recent years. While junior college sports are not a new thing, the reasons more talented athletes are choosing them are.

According to the National Junior College Athletic Association, the organization that oversees junior college sports, there were 59,196 junior college athletes in 2016-17. This is up from 50,286 junior college athletes 10 years before in 2006-07.

LLCC is part of the trend of attracting more athletes, recruiting from beyond its district.

“Lincoln Land has always been a great program, the facilities are nice and from what I have heard everyone just has nice things to say about the coaches and the program so I figured I couldn’t go wrong if I went here.” said Cade Sestak, a sophomore baseball player who is originally from Champaign.

Sestak added: “For someone like me that wants to keep playing baseball after this, I think Lincoln Land definitely prepares you for the next level and I think the coaches do a good job of that specifically.”

Another athlete from out of the college’s district, Jordan Brooks, a basketball player and a graduate of St. Joseph-Ogden High School near Champaign, also decided to choose LLCC for this fall. When asked about what LLCC has done for him as a freshman playing JuCo ball he said, “I think it is better competition than going to a D-3 four-year, and I am getting good exposure as a player, in school you’re more on your own with things like time management.”

With other offers to schools such as Aurora University, Brooks decided that going the JuCo route was best for him.

“Transferring out of JuCo, I can work on my game more and help me develop, plus with JuCo you can play against good players to help me get better.” said Brooks when asked on what playing JuCo will do for him when transferring to a four-year to continue basketball.

While LLCC does a great job at attracting athletes from places outside of Springfield, they also do a great job at local recruiting. With two great local conferences that are the Central State Eight and the Sangamon Conference, it is not too hard to find talented athletes. However, a tough challenge can be convincing them to stay home for another two years.

“It’s close to home, and the fact that your local friends and family can come watch you and you have support.” said sophomore softball player and basketball player Nicole Robinson.

Robinson, who graduated from Rochester High School in 2017, was a key part to the state runs for both the softball team and women’s basketball team her senior year. Robinson decided to stay home anad be a dual sport athlete yet again, however, after LLCC she plans to transfer out and has confidence moving forward because of the experience she gained while at LLCC.

“I think I would like to go somewhere farther away to a bigger university because I do have the JuCo exposure, so I find that I’m more prepared to go there and not be overwhelmed,” Robinson said.

With multiple schools in the area producing talented athletes, LLCC has attracted multiple local area athletes this year.

When asked what made him decide to go to LLCC, Jake Pennell, a sophomore basketball player, said, “Location, and I knew I was going to have the opportunity to play right away.”

“I can get all the gen ed classes out of the way and it helps get me ready for what to do in college. I know I won’t be overwhelmed when I decide to go somewhere else, I will be prepared to do well at a four-year university,” Pennell.

JuCo sports are growing, whether it is a trend and will pass or whether it is something that will become increasingly common only time will answer that. Either way, LLCC is setting up students and athletes for continued success.

Noah Branson can be reached at [email protected]