NJCAA: Four more teams are added to NJCAA Tourney field

Mar. 16—DANVILLE — Eventually, a tournament becomes so beloved that there is always a chance to expand.

For Danville and the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, the year of expansion is here.

Instead of the usual Tuesday start, the tournament will start on Monday with the addition of four at-large teams to up the field to 20.

"I am excited they added another day, which means more teams and more people get to visit Danville," Danville mayor Rickey Williams, Jr. said. "Anytime we have an opportunity to showcase our city, that is exciting."

The teams are No. 5 seed National Park, No. 8 Des Moines Area, No. 11 Iowa Lakes and No. 13 North Central Missouri. They are picked by the NJCAA Division II National Men's Basketball Committee, who after years of work, finally got this expansion approved.

"It's been a conversation that had been going on for a few years with the committee and we finally got the OK from the committee," NJCAA Division II National Men's Basketball Committee Chairman Chris DePew said. "This is the first time we are doing it and we are so excited about adding an extra day to the tournament. We are excited about the opportunity to get the best teams out there. Now if there is a team that has been great all year long, and had a bad day, they get another chance to be recognized among the best teams in the nation."

The addition of the teams is great news for DACC, according Danville NJCAA Tournament Chair Brian Hensgen said, even with a little more work.

"It increased the number of competitors, the number of teams, the number of days and the number of opportunities for our restaurants and hotels," Hensgen said. "So it is beneficial to the community but it means more work and we will need more volunteers and hosts and more referees and more employees to producing a championship-level tournament. So we will be reaching out to our volunteers to see if they can give us that one day. Teams come in earlier and we will be going to our restaurants earlier in the week. It will be a new experience for all of us as we try to seamlessly add this for our community."

"You would think there would be people saying that it would be too much, but no one is like that," Danville Area Visitor's Bureau Executive Director Jeanie Cooke said. "Our volunteers and crew are excited about the tournament. Now if you ask us after, it may be different because we will get tired, but this is a great investment for our city."

Cooke said that the extra day shows what faith the NJCAA has in the town, along with the recent announcement that the tournament will be at the Mary Miller Center for the next five years after DACC won a three-year bid to go along with the current two-year bid that starts with this year's tournament.

"It is great for the City of Danville, great for the tournament and great for the college," Cooke said. "The most exciting thing about that is the NJCAA has faith in Danville and it says a lot for the leadership team in the college and the volunteers. I am very proud and happy they have seen that our community has done a great job in hosting the NJCAA."

Williams said the efforts of the local committee and local officials have made the tournament reach the milestones of extra teams and years.

"It makes me very proud of all the people here from the tournament committee, Jeanie Cooke, Mike Hulvey, Brian Hensgen for all of the effort and volunteers that put in thousand of hours," Williams said. "They all combine to make it an amazing experience for fans and I think the NJCAA sees that and it makes them believe in us. It makes me proud because everyone comes together to put our best face forward and put on a top-notch tournament. I appreciate the NJCAA for believing in us."

With the extra day and teams coming to town over the weekend, Williams expects a lot more action on the court and a lot more business for the community.

"It means a great deal to our economy," Williams said. "You are going to have another day of hotel stays, many more meals that will be purchased and people will need supplies, which means they will frequent our stores and shops. It is a great economic boost for the community and a source of pride. This is one of those few things in life I truly believe in my heart that is a win-win for everyone."

"It is not just the community and college, it is the entire community that wraps its arms around the tournament," Cooke said. "The NJCAA sees that and it certainly gives all of us a proud feeling for Danville and the surrounding areas."

The tournament starts on Monday and all games will be broadcast on WDAN-AM 1490.