Dream Delayed

Indian Hills has two Arkansas targets in 6-8 freshman forward Jameel McKay and 6-9 sophomore center D.J. Bennett, but falls to Monroe (NY) College 81-69 Tuesday afternoon in the opening round of the National Junior College Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.

HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Indian Hills freshman power forward Jameel McKay (6-8, 210) is poised to be among the top – if not the top – junior college players in the country next season.

But that was not on his mind Tuesday when Monroe (NY) College downed his Warriors 81-69 in the opening round of the National Junior College Tournament at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.

Despite his 19 points and 14 rebounds (10 of which were offensive boards), McKay – being heavily recruited by Arkansas - and his teammates' hopes for a national championship died hard.

"We really thought we had a team that could come here and win it all, but we just got off to a very slow start," McKay said of a 29-12 deficit. "For a lot of us, this was great experience and we are going to finish up strong this week for our fans and for ourselves."

Sophomore center D.J. Bennett (6-9, 215), a 2012 prospect that Arkansas is looking at for the spring signing period, had 5 points and 5 rebounds in the loss.

He had been averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds in the previous seven-game stretch.

Bennett's free throw got his team within 50-49 with just under 10 minutes left, but the Warriors – who returned just two players from last season - never could get over the hump.

"Our guys deserve a lot of credit for coming back and being down just one," Indian Hills head coach Barrett Peery said. "…We have the ball, down one and we can't ask for anything better, but we just didn't score the ball the way we are used to doing."

Indian Hills (30-3) moves into a consolation game Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Eastern Mississippi (23-5).

"This is the fifth team that I have brought here between CSI (College of Southern Idaho) and Indian Hills," Peery said. "I told my staff that I thought this was the most calm, even keel and ready to play team that I have ever come out here with. I don't think they were in awe and their plans were to win this tournament."

McKay, who averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds during the season, agreed with that sentiment.

"I was anxious and I think our whole team was anxious, but ready to play and well-prepared to play," McKay said. "I just think shots didn't fall."

Monroe (30-3), which finished third at the national tournament last season, advances to play top-seeded and unbeaten South Plains (33-0) Wednesday at 6 p.m.

"They are going to rely heavily on those guys who were in this tournament last year and made a run all the way to Friday night (for the semifinals)," Peery said. "They will have a chance to win it."

McKay likes what he sees in Arkansas' program.

"It's a nice program and I have a really great relationship with the coaches," McKay said. "I really like their tempo and I really like Arkansas a lot."

Peery raved about what he got from McKay this season.

"Jameel has probably been as good as any freshman in the country this year," Peery said. "He is a constant double-double guy and you can probably put it in the books each night. He has been very consistent. Jameel just plays. I enjoy coaching him because he just goes and plays the game in whatever role he is in."

In addition to the Razorbacks, McKay is getting attention from Memphis, Missouri, Iowa State, USC and Wichita State.

"There are a lot of schools," McKay said. "I am just really overwhelmed and really blessed."

Peery expects McKay to lead his team back to the national tournament next season.

"It's an exciting time, but I think the second time around can be more normal for guys and that is what we will hope to do in year two with all these good freshmen," Peery said.

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