Jacionna Stowers has played basketball for years, but it is seemingly all a brand new game this season for the Davenport North graduate.
Stowers finds herself adjusting in a number of ways as part of a Johnson County Community College women’s basketball team that is off to a 19-5 start to the season and ranks 10th nationally in the most recent NJCAA Division II poll.
“People talk about it being a big step from high school to college, but it’s been that and more,’’ Stowers said. “I’m in the right place, though. I’m learning every day and being here is going to get me where I want to be.’’
The 5-foot-7 guard is currently averaging a point a minute for Johnson County, scoring an average of 12.7 points while averaging 12.7 minutes per game for a talent-rich program which has won at least 30 games in each of the last eight seasons.
Only four players on the roster are averaging more minutes per game than Stowers, who is second on the team with a 43-percent shooting touch from 3-point range and an average of 3.3 three-point baskets per game.
Stowers is among 10 freshmen on a 14-player roster and 10th-year coach Ben Conrad is playing Stowers primarily as a shooting guard.
“It’s a new role for me and there has been a learning curve with it," Stowers said. "I’m seeing the game differently now and I think it has been good for me.
“I see where I’m at now and I can see how next year, with another year of experience, where I can go with it. That’s the exciting part for me – what I can do with it down the line.’’
Month by month, week by week and game by game, Stowers does sense steady growth in her game.
That growth started on the defensive end of the court.
“I’m learning every day how to become a better defender,’’ she said. “It’s something I knew I would get a chance to work on here and I have to because the players at this level have so much skill. If you want to be good, you have to play on both ends of the floor.’’
Stowers has also worked to gain consistency in her 3-point shot and improve her overall floor game as she shifts from the point guard role she had at North to the shooting guard role she fills now.
She looks for greater efficiency in her shot, working to raise her shooting percentages by taking better shots even as she works out.
“It’s about making smarter plays, better decisions,’’ she said. “Some of that is just becoming more mature as a player, using the experiences I’ve had and learning from them to help me compete at a high level.’’
The competition Stowers has faced, both in games and on the practice court, is helping her elevate her own game.
“I’ve always liked going up against good competition. I feel like it’s the only way to get better,’’ she said. “I’m going up against great players in practice and every game now.
“That’s forcing me to become a better player. I have to bring it every day. Even in practice, you have to be at your best and be ready to work. That has been the amazing thing being part of such a great program.’’
The experience has shown Stowers the importance in developing consistency in the fundamental aspects of the game.
“Every little thing makes a difference and I’m seeing that,’’ Stowers said. “As a team, we’re working to make each other better and that is helping us all. For me, it’s a lot of focus and making sure that I’m in the right position at the right time.’’
That approach has led to the success the Overland Park, Kansas, program has had over time, winning five Jayhawk Conference titles in the last six years and 15 NJCAA Region VI championships in the last 18 years.
“The expectations here are to do big things, but that starts with not getting ahead of ourselves,’’ Stowers said. “We’re a pretty young team this year so the only thing that matters right now is the next game and the next practice. It’s the right approach and it’s something that will help me down the road.’’