Local colleges

Nova Southeastern building with eyes on NCAA Division II tournament


Nova Southeastern is hoping the additions of Amanda Burakoski and Tailor Jones can help it go deep in the NCAA Division II tournament.

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•  Barry (NCAA Division II)

Coach: Bill Sullivan (seventh year); Last year: 18-9, lost in conference quarterfinals; Top players: 5-10 sr. G Dominique Dixon (transfer from Division I Detroit Mercy, scored 20 vs. Michigan); 5-10 jr. G Tyler Hardy (Leading scorer at Division II Wayne State); Noteworthy: The Bucs are coming off their second conference regular-season title, but they return just two players.

•  Broward College (junior college)

Coach: Kevin Johnson (third year); Last year: 12-8, lost in the first round at state; Top players: 5-6 so. PG Alicia Hines (8 pts, 5 ast.); 5-8 so. SG Kiara Shoats (10 pts.); 6-3 fr. SF Hanna Kalenta (native of Belarus and a Division I prospect); 6-1 so. F Marie Fleurival (FAMU recruit); Noteworthy: Last year, Broward made the state tourney for the first time since 2004.

•  Florida Memorial (NAIA)

Coach: Kenneth Marshall (35th year); Last year: 10-16, lost in the conference quarterfinals; Top player: 5-10 sr. G Dominique Jackson (13.4 pts. 9.4 reb.); Noteworthy: The Lions return four of their six rotation players, but everybody else is new – including eight freshmen. Marshall is closing in on 500 career wins and has a record of 472-382.

Johnson & Wales (NAIA)

Coach: Kymberly Hope (4th year); Last season: 7-25, lost in the conference quarterfinals); Top players: 5-8 so. F Kristina Bridges (10.4 pts., 7.4 rebs.); 5-9 jr. G Myla Russell (20 pts, 8 rebs.); 5-10 fr. F Shakina McMillan (Hialeah High); Noteworthy: Bridges was the Sun Conference’s Rookie of the Year last season. Russell made second-team all-league.

•  Miami Dade College (junior college)

Coach: Susan Summons (27th year); Last year: 9-14, no playoffs; Top players: 5-8 so. G Jasmin Burger (13.9 pts., 3.1 asts., 3.2 steals); 6-3 so. F Adenike Dawodu (14 pts., 8 r3bs.); 6-2 so. F Sierra Lark (7 pts., 8 rebs.); Noteworthy: Burger made 39 percent on three-pointers and was named first-team all-league. Dawodu played for Union (Tenn.), the NAIA runner-up.

Nova Southeastern (NCAA Division II)

Coach: LeAnn Freeland (second year); Last year: 17-11, lost in conference semifinals; Top players: 5-6 sr. G Meixandra Porter (14.8 pts., All-SSC first team); 5-8 soph. G Danielle Robinson (13.2 pts; SSC Freshman of the Year; 5-11 jr. PG Jessica Russi (83 assists); Noteworthy: Jasmine Wilkins, who led the team in rebounds and blocks, is out for the year with a knee injury.

•  St. Thomas (NAIA)

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Coach: Robin Harmony (seventh year); Last year: 24-7, lost in first round of NAIA tournament; Top players: 5-9 jr. F Dannisha Pierce (conference Defensive Player of the Year); 5-11 sr. F Constina Cousins (second-team all-conference); Noteworthy: First-team all-conference players Maddie Cummings and Nickerline Montina graduated after last season.

Special to The Miami Herald

When you are a Division II women’s basketball program searching for talent, you will use any tool at your disposal — even Twitter.

That’s how Nova Southeastern assistant coach Brooklyn Kohlheim found out that three-point shooter Amanda Burakoski was leaving St. John’s.

Kohlheim notified her boss, second-year Nova head coach LeAnn Freeland, who decided to pursue Burakoski even though the 6-0 junior guard had tweeted that she wanted to stay close to her home in New York City.

By late December, the Sharks had landed Burakoski, who as a sophomore averaged 5.4 points, leading the Big East with 43 percent accuracy on three-pointers.

“She wasn’t able to maximize her versatile skill set in the Big East,” Freeland said. “But she can do more than shoot three-pointers. She can go off the dribble, and she’s a good passer. She’s excited to have a chance to show her full game.”

Four months after getting Burakoski, Nova was contacted by Orlando native Tailor Jones, who had graduated from Northwestern University and had one year of eligibility remaining.

Jones, who is now at Nova working on her master’s degree in athletic administration, wants to be an image consultant for pro athletes.

“I think there is a desperate need for it, especially in the NBA,” said Jones, a 6-0 senior guard. “There are so many guys who go into the NBA who are maybe ignorant about how to handle their finances or how to build a positive image. I want to help people and stay in sports.”

Jones, whose sister, Morgan, is a 6-2 sophomore guard at Florida State, figures to have a huge impact for Nova’s team this year. She averaged 4 points and 3.7 rebounds last season, ranking ninth in the Big Ten in assists.

She has ample experience, including one of her career highlights as a freshman at the University of Florida, when she played against national power Connecticut.

Another highlight came as a sophomore in high school, when Jones started and led Lake Mary to a state title.

“Tailor can play anything from point guard to the post,” Freeland said. “We like to spread out on offense, and that plays to her strength.”

Freeland said there were times last season when Nova scored with only three seconds gone in the shot clock, and that quick offense attracted Jones.

“I like to get the ball and run,” Jones said. “I’m also strong in the post. At 6-foot, I was one of the smaller players at Northwestern — we had a girl who was 6-7. But here, I can play in the post if they need me.”

Last season, Nova beat Shaw, which went on to win the Division II national title. This time around, with the mix of transfers and backcourt returners such as 2012 Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year Danielle Robinson and all-conference first-team senior Meixandra Porter, Freeland is thinking big.

“When we beat Shaw, it showed we’re not that far away [from contention],” Freeland said. “We feel that the national tournament and Elite Eight or Final Four are viable options.

“We’re not afraid to talk about it. We have a big vision, and the more you talk about it, the more realistic it becomes.”

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