Collins, Ekweariri latest to sign letters

5/19/2014

By J. LEVI BURNFIN

By J. LEVI BURNFIN

lburnfin@gctelegram.com

Two more Garden City Community College Broncbusters added their names to national letters-of-intent Monday during a signing ceremony, the third in five days at the college.

Women's basketball player Shauqunna Collins and the volleyball team's Chinasa Ekweariri were the latest to move on to the four-year level, with 14 Busters signing in two separate ceremonies on Wednesday and Thursday of last week.

Collins, who played the 2013-14 season with GCCC after transferring from Jackson, Mich., Community College, announced her signing of a letter of intent to play at Fresno State University in the early afternoon ceremony in the Hall of Fame room at the Perryman Athletic Complex. Ekweariri, a Garden City High School graduate and two-year star at GCCC, will continue her volleyball career at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, La.

In her one season, Collins led the team in points per game with 14.8, while also tying for second in rebounds per game, racking up 6.1 as a 5-foot-4 point guard.

"I think it's very safe to say that Shauqunna was far and away the best point guard in the (KJCCC), and one of the top three or four players in the conference," Collins' head coach, Nick Salazar said.

Collins saved her best for last, though, opening the Region VI Tournament with a triple-double at home against Labette Community College, sending the Busters to a 72-69 win with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

She then led the Busters to the region semifinals, where she put on a brilliant display of athleticism and will in a 68-56 hard-fought loss to eventual region champion Hutchinson.

"She was the heart and soul of the Busters this year," Salazar said.

Collins was also a star point guard at Jackson in her freshman season, close to her home town of Saginaw, Mich., but transferred to GCCC and thrived, earning attention from many schools, even if it was a grueling process with many schools questioning if her diminutive stature is viable at the next level.

But Collins said her height has been questioned since the very early days in her career, with a middle school coach telling her she would not be able to play in high school because she was too short and too skinny.

"He told me that I wouldn't make freshmen (team), and yeah he was right, I didn't make freshmen, I made varsity," Collins said with a flash of a confident yet sheepish smile.

She said she had other offers from Adams State in Colorado, Houston Baptist University and had interest from Oregon State University and Robert Morris, but Fresno State was an easy decision at the end.

Fresno State head coach Jamie White recruited Collins at White's previous position as head coach of Northern Colorado, but then was hired at Fresno State and signed Collins soon after.

"Once she got to Fresno," Collins said of White, "she realized the point guard there was leaving, so she needed a point guard, so she said, 'Well, I know where to find one.'"

Collins was named to the All-KJCCC second team in 2013-14. Fresno State is the defending Mountain West Conference tournament champion and went 22-10 overall in 2013-14.

For Ekweariri, she's had a long journey, as well, just not in the traditional miles method of measurement.

The 6-foot middle blocker has torn her ACL in both knees, suffering an injury to either knee every year since she was 12, she said, including her freshman season at GCCC, when she played in just eight games.

But, under first-year head coach Harvey Sanders, the Garden City native remained healthy for her sophomore campaign and impressed Southern's head coach Venessa Jacobs enough to sign her to a letter of intent.

"The coach (Jacobs) believed in me," Ekweariri said. "It's hard to find a D-I coach that will look at a girl wearing two ACL braces and say 'She can do it.' So, the fact that coach Jacobs wasn't scared, and saw the athlete in me, that's what helped me make my decision even easier."

Ekweariri was named an All-KJCCC honorable mention after scoring 132 kills for the Busters in 2013, third most on the team with only outside hitters — players in more of a scoring position — having more.

"I know what she can do now that she's healthy," Sanders said. "She's got a lot in front of her."

Southern is a historically black college in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and went 9-19 overall in 2013.

Ekweariri picked Southern over offers from Colorado State University Pueblo, Austin Peay State University and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

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