To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around. Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton about winning 20 straight games last year en route to being named MEAC COY.
You played basketball at NC Central, where your nickname was “Poetry `n Moton”: who gave you the nickname, and how do you like it? I think it was the Sports Information Director Kyle Serba who came up with the nickname, I thought it was cool and I have people tell me it fit, so it just stuck. I loved every part of my college career at NCCU.
In 1996 you became the 1st Eagle to ever be named CIAA POY: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? It was humbling because one of the top-50 players of all-time (Sam Jones) went to school here. Before Jeremy Ingram earned MEAC POY last spring I was the only one to have earned that honor. With the great players we have here at NCCU and the history and tradition of this great institution, it goes to show you how great the CIAA was. I was truly honored to have won that award back in 1996.
You graduated as the third all-time leading scorer in school history and were inducted into the school’s HOF in 2004: what is your secret for being a great scorer? I do not think there is a secret to it. Depending on the system you run, if all five guys buy into their roles then you can get lost in the game: that is how synergy is achieved. To be a great scorer you have to get to the foul line and not be afraid to take the shot.
Your win total has increased during each of your five years as coach at your alma mater: how have you been able to keep improving every single year? I have been blessed here at NCCU with a great staff first and foremost, but as a program we do not look at the big picture all the time: we just try to get better every day and win every day. I know it sounds like a cliché, but that is how we operate. We have a formula here that has worked thus far and it boils down to accountability. I am my own biggest critic, so I try to better myself every day and I expect the same out of my student-athletes.
Last year you were named MEAC Coach of the Year after setting a conference record with 28 wins: although you started the year 8-5, did it reach a point during your 20-game winning streak where you just expected to win every time your team stepped onto the court? Last year’s team was a special group. Emanuel “Poobie” Chapman and Ingram were my first 4-year guys and they led this team in so many ways. We had a group of kids that bought in and believed in the process and each other’s role on the team. We expect to win every night we hit the floor.
In the 2014 MEAC tourney title game you had a 9-point win over Morgan State for the first MEAC tourney title in school history: what did it mean to you to win the title, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus? Forget the basketball program: it was huge for this university. NCCU decided to make the move to the D-1 level and it was a huge undertaking. To win the MEAC title in year number three showed the alums and fans that it was well worth it. It put the basketball program on the map. It is hard to be seen in this state because of how great the programs around us are (Duke, UNC, and NC State), but making it to the Big Dance galvanized our fan base and the reaction was awesome to see.
In the 2014 NCAA tourney you had a loss to Iowa State: what did your team learn from that game that you think can help you this year? Iowa State was the best offensive team we saw all year long. If Georges Niang did not get hurt, that team would have been tough to beat. Every game is a learning experience but we saw that we could compete with anyone even more so than before.
Your non-conference schedule includes games against UNC, Creighton, and Cincinnati: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? They all do, but since UNC is the first game of the year, that will be the first test. We focus on them all the same no matter the opponent.
Your leading scorer (Ingram) has graduated: how will you try to replace his 20.8 points? That has yet to be seen. We will find out who will step up as the season progresses, but I think it is going to be a collective effort.
What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? Our goals are the same every year: to get better every day. We do not necessarily concern ourselves with expectations at this point.