Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with North Carolina A&T SG Lamont Middleton about facing Louisville in the NCAA tourney last March.
Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Georgia Tech, Mississippi, St. Louis, and Charlotte. Which of these four games do you feel will present your biggest test? All of those games are big but I just want to be consistent as a senior. We have a lot to prove because people are questioning if we can do it again, so every single game will be a test.
You are the leading returning scorer on a team that lost three starters from last year: how much pressure do you feel to be a leader this year? Everyone is expecting it and I am expecting it from myself: nobody will put more pressure on me than I will put on myself. I was thrown into the fire last year (which was a big test for me), so this year I just need to get better at it.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? We are not making any promises but the goal is to get back to the NCAA tourney. We do not just want to win the play-in game: we want to go farther than that, just like Norfolk State did in 2012. We also want to win the MEAC again.
You began your career at Wake Tech Community College. How did you end up with the Aggies? I wanted to stay close to my family in Raleigh. The Aggies coaches came to a game where I scored about 40 points and I just kept in touch with them. Coach Cy saw my tape and liked me.
Cy Alexander was named head coach in 2012. What do you think of him so far, and how was he able to connect with a group of new players? He is a hell of a coach and I like him. He demands a lot out of us so there is little room for error, but he helps us get better. He is allowing the older players to lead while he teaches the younger guys.
In the 2013 MEAC tourney title game you scored all 13 of your points in the second half of a three-point win over Morgan State. How were you able to turn it on after halftime, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus with the trophy after 15 straight losing seasons? I sat on the bench for most of the first half: my stomach was turning with everything at stake, but it gave me more of a fire to come out in the second half. Everything was cool on campus, and we want to duplicate that feeling this year.
In the 2013 NCAA tourney you scored 14 points in a one-point win over Liberty. Where does that game rank among the highlights of your career? There are not a lot of people who get to play in the NCAA tourney, so that was the ultimate because it is what everyone dreams of going up. All my friends and family got to see us on TV.
You scored nine points in a loss to eventual champion Louisville, who set a tourney record with 20 steals. What made the Cardinals’ defense unlike anything you have ever seen? That game was the all-time low. Their intensity was unbelievable: even Coach Rick Pitino was totally into the game. They had great length, which was totally different from the kind of competition we faced during the year.
You have a birthday coming up next month. What are you doing for the big day? We have our first real game of the year on my birthday, so I am going to be locked in!