Laughter filled with tears could be heard throughout McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium last week, as N.C. Central gave its men’s basketball team one final sendoff.
A celebration banquet for the MEAC champions was held last Thursday for two reasons: to honor a historic season and the fact that coach LeVelle Moton is still, well ... NCCU’s head coach.
Rumors began circulating late in the season that Moton’s name was on several teams’ coaching hot list. The Eagles did lose a staff member, however, as associate head coach John Moseley was making his final appearance as an Eagle. Moseley was hired as the new head coach at Lincoln (Mo.) University, a historically black institution.
“I am still an Eagle, but now it’s my opportunity to fly,” the Warrenton native said through tears. “And I thank you guys for that opportunity. I learned so much being a part of this program.”
Director of Athletics Ingrid Wicker-McCree said any doubts about the athletic program’s decision to reclassify to Division I have been dispelled. Also in attendance was former Athletics Director William “Bill” Hayes, who started the reclassification process before leaving for Florida A&M.
Not only were the Eagles winners on the court but off as well.
“The men’s 2.8 GPA as a team is the highest since I’ve been here,” Wicker-McCree said.
But just in case you’ve been hibernating in a cave the past few months, here are just a few of the shining moments in Eagles basketball in 2013-14:
• First MEAC regular season and tournament championships.
• Senior Jeremy Ingram and LeVelle Moton named conference player and coach of the year, respectively.
• First NCAA Tournament berth at the NCAA Div. I level.
• First win against an ACC opponent (N.C. State).
• A 15-1 conference finish for the second consecutive year.
• A school record 23 straight home wins.
• Tied school record for most wins (28).
And on it goes.
“We will be back here next year,” Wicker-McCree said.
“Before the season, no one saw this, including this team,” Moton said. “It was during a scrimmage against High Point, who were expected to win their conference championship, that I heard Jeremy say ‘We’re going to be pretty good. I didn’t know we were this good.’ That was the first inkling.”
The worst incident to mar the season was the coffee scalding of Moton’s 2-year-old son shortly before the team was to travel to the Big Dance to take on Iowa State.
LeVelle Jr. has since been released and neither surgery nor skin grafts were needed.
Of course, no banquet would be complete with season-ending awards.
• Jimmy Boston “Iron Eagle” – presented to Jeremy Ingram.
• David L. Fitts Sr. Award (humility) – Jay Copeland.
• John B. McLendon Award (best moral character) – Ebuka Anyaorah.
• Tex Harrison Award (team leadership) – Emmanuel Chapman.
• Steven Birchette Award (top scholar-athlete) – Jordan Parks.
• Jimmy Walker Award (defensive player of the year) – Karamo Jawara.
• LuAnn Edmonds-Harris Award (unselfishness) – Alfonzo Houston.
• Sam Jones Award (team MVP) – Chapman and Ingram.