RALEIGH — N.C. Central mens basketball coach Levelle Moton shared his playbook with a different team Friday.
Moton, 39, months removed from the Eagles first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship and NCAA tournament bid, talked with the Blue Jackets roster of students at Daniels Middle School about the plays that those around him drew up for him to succeed, on and off the court.
Bob Schmalfield coached Moton in football and basketball at Daniels, where he graduated in 1988. Before introducing Moton to the students, Schmalfield told them that he didnt do anything to improve Motons game, making the point that everything they need to be successful as well is already within them.
What made him great was what he brought with him, Schmalfield said. He brought it from inside. I didnt have to bring it out of him.
But Moton was much less modest about his former coachs impact.
That man changed my entire life, Moton said. He was the first person to challenge me and tell me that I really wasnt as good of a basketball player as I thought I was, and he had a plan to make me better.
Schmalfield kicked Moton out of a basketball practice in eighth grade, treating him like any other person instead of as a special talent. That moment, as well as what came after, earned Motons respect.
Moton lived in a part of Raleigh that not a lot of people would come to, he said. But Schmalfield would, and he did.
Every Friday night, and I dont know if he even remembers this, but it meant the world to me, Moton said. He would come to my apartment and pick me up and take me to all the local high school basketball games so I could kinda foreshadow my future, so I could see and envision what he was ultimately trying to push me to.
And I respect him for that. Honestly, hes the coach that changed my life, man.
Moton, N.C. Centrals head coach since 2009 who has earned the MEAC Coach of the Year and Most Outstanding Coach awards, said his favorite part about coaching, other than winning, is seeing his athletes graduate.
Thats the most incredible thing a coach could ever see, he said.
Three days after extending what was already the Eagles most successful season as a Division I team by claiming the conference championship over Morgan State, however, Moton experienced a difficult time.
Moton got a call saying his then-15-month-old son had knocked over a cup of coffee that spilled onto his head and dripped down his face.
I had to rush home, and when I got there, I didnt even notice my child, he said. Thats how badly burned that he was.
Motons wife, Bridget Moton, cried as she later saw her son in tears in North Carolinas Jaycee Burn Center.
I just remember telling my team, he said, Im not going. Im not coaching the team tomorrow.
And the doctors came in, and when they washed his face, all of his skin came off. Thats how bad it was. I just didnt feel like I could leave my child in that condition. At that particular moment, basketball meant absolutely nothing to me.
His son is doing well now, he said. But now the attention is on Moton himself as NBA and college teams continue to look his direction.
Its a difference between looking for jobs and listening for jobs, Moton said. You just listen. I think you owe it to yourself just to listen, as a professional, as a young professional, in the business because it changes.
Moton said N.C. Central and his agent have been in contact, but he tries to stay out of those discussions.