Men's College Basketball

Teams of the Decade: Trail Blazers step into national spotlight

March 22, 2019 - Danville, IL - John Wood's Cory Miller, Jr., celebrates a bucket by teammate Carter Cramsey during their NJCAA national tournament consolation bracket basketball game on Friday. The Trail Blazers defeated the Lakers 72-63 advancing to the 5th place game at Mary Miller Complex on the Danville Area Community College campus tomorrow. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
Clark Brooks
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 27, 2020 12:01 am

Clearly this was a decade to remember for the John Wood Community College men's basketball program.

The Trail Blazers were the NJCAA Division II national runner-up in 2015, made three national tournament appearances, won three Region 24 championships and captured four Mid-West Athletic Conference titles. They produced four first- or second-team All-Americans and handfuls of all-region and all-conference players.

And they've done it in their own unique way.

That means facing an overloaded schedule the first half of the season, rolling off a string of victories the second half of the season and hitting their prime come March.

It also helps being able to recruit the area's top talent and merging it with high-quality players from the Midwest and beyond.

With that in mind, here is the JWCC men's basketball program's all-decade team for 2010-19, as selected by Senior Sports Writer Matt Schuckman:

Regan Bruenger, Guard, Class of 2012

The Southeastern graduate was the Trail Blazers' only All-Mid-West Athletic Conference selection his sophomore year when he led the Blazers in scoring at 15.3 points per game. He was a first-team All-Region 24 selection and a NJCAA All-America nominee. Bruenger averaged 11.6 points and a team-best 3.5 assists as a freshman when he was a first-team All-MWAC selection. Bruenger played two seasons at Illinois-Springfield, averaging 9.1 points and 3.1 rebounds as a junior and 11 points and 3.1 rebounds as a senior.

Aziz Fadika, Forward, Class of 2018

A dominant big man who will be remembered as one of the best rebounders in program history, Fadika led the Mid-West Athletic Conference in rebounding as a sophomore at 14.9 boards per game. He also averaged 14 points and shot 56.4 percent from the field, earning first-team all-conference. Overall, the 6-8 Fadika averaged 12.9 points and 12.2 rebounds with 34 blocked shots. He was named the NJCAA Division II national player of the week after finishing the regular season with a 24-point, 25-rebound performance in an 81-76 victory over Lincoln as a sophomore.

Brad Hamilton, Guard, Class of 2013

The all-time leading scorer in Pittsfield history and the 2011 Herald-Whig Player of the Year, Hamilton carried his steady demeanor and lethal 3-point shot to the college level. As a sophomore, Hamilton led the Trail Blazers in scoring at 12.8 points and made 94 3-pointers. He was a first-team All-Mid-West Athletic Conference pick and a first-team All-Region 24 selection and an honorable mention NJCAA Division II All-American. He went on to play two seasons at Missouri Valley and spent two seasons on the Vikings coaching staff.

Paxton Harmon, Guard, Class of 2015

Named to the all-tournament team at the NJCAA Division II national tournament as a sophomore, Harmon was part of the Trail Blazers' three-headed perimeter attack. He averaged 14.2 points and 5.7 rebounds, while shooting 48 percent from 3-point range with 86 made 3-pointers. He was a first-team All-Region 24 selection and a second-team All-Mid-West Athletic Conference pick. He ranked seventh in program history in 3-pointers made before enjoying a solid career at Illinois-Springfield. As a senior with the Prairie Stars, he averaged 14.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists.

Brody Gronewold, Guard, Class of 2015

Gronewold played for JWCC from 2013-15, serving as a reserve guard on the 2014 national tournament team and starting on the 2015 national runner-up team. He was an All-Mid-West Athletic Conference and All-Region 24 selection as a sophomore when he averaged 14.3 points and made a team-leading 93 3-pointers. He transferred to Missouri Valley for his final two seasons and earned NAIA honorable mention All-American honors as a senior. Gronewold scored 1,059 points in two seasons with the Vikings, graduating as one of the top 10 scorers in program history.

Jordan Johnson, Guard, Class of 2015

The engineer of the best national tournament finish in program history, Johnson received first-team All-American honors as a sophomore when the Trail Blazers were the NJCAA Division II national runner-up. He was named the Mid-West Athletic Conference and Region 24 Player of the Year after averaging 15.3 points and 6.1 assists per game. He also was named the MWAC Male Athlete of the Year. Johnson graduated as the program's all-time leader in assists and free throws made, while finishing fifth in scoring. He went on to play at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, UNLV and the NBA G-League.

Gabe McKenzie, Forward, Class of 2017

The 2015 Herald-Whig Player of the Year from Canton, Mo., enjoyed two stellar seasons with the Trail Blazers. As a sophomore, McKenzie was named an NJCAA Division II second-team All-American and Region 24 and Mid-West Athletic Conference Player of the Year after he averaged 16.3 points and 8.4 rebounds. He shot 51.3 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range in MWAC play. As a freshman, McKenzie was named the MWAC Freshman of the Year and a second-team all-conference selection. He averaged 11.6 points and 4.3 rebounds overall and 13.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in conference play.

Cory Miller, Guard, Class of 2019

As a sophomore, Miller led the Trail Blazers to a sixth-place finish at the NJCAA national tournament with a remarkable performance. He averaged a tournament-best 25.8 points, shot 50.8 percent from the field, 53.3 percent from 3-point range and 72.9 percent from the line, to go along with eight rebounds per game. It capped a memorable sophomore season in which he was a first-team All-American, the Region 24 and the Mid-West Athletic Conference Player of the Year as he averaged 21.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists, while shooting 50.7 percent from the field, 44.6 percent from 3-point range and 77.5 percent from the line.

Ryan Stuckman, Guard, Class of 2011

Stuckman helped the Trail Blazers win 22 games his sophomore season -- the most they'd won since the 1996-97 season -- as he was a first-team All-Mid-West Athletic Conference pick and an All-Region 24 selection. He led JWCC in scoring at 12.2 points per game and made a team-best 58 3-pointers. Yet, it was on defense where Stuckman made his biggest mark. He drew 31 charges as a freshman and followed it up with 29 as a sophomore before enjoying a solid two-year career at Quincy University.

TJ Tisdell, Forward, Class of 2014

The 6-foot-7 Tisdell led the Trail Blazers to an NJCAA Division II national tournament appearance for the first time in two decades and was rewarded by being named an NJCAA D-II first-team All-American. He averaged 20.8 points and 10.6 rebounds with 17 double-doubles, including four in a row in February and in six of the Trail Blazers' final 10 games. Tisdell posted 55 points and 15 rebounds in JWCC's two national tournament games. Tisdell scored 30 or more points six times and pulled down 15 or more rebounds seven times.