North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams doesn’t show up for just anybody.
Especially if he has to brave I-40 traffic during rush hour – and a State Fair.
But Williams navigated that and more to speak at North Carolina Central men’s basketball tip-off banquet last Wednesday night.
“Why am I here? That man right there. LeVelle asked me,” Williams said, pointing at NCCU basketball coach LeVelle Moton.
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“I’m big on people, not big on buildings,” he continued. “I hope people understand what you have, not only one of the greatest coaches but one of the greatest people you can ever meet.”
The banquet served a fundraiser for the men’s basketball program. Guests mingled, checked out the items for a silent auction and waited for a delayed Williams, who fought heavy traffic to get there.
Williams reminisced about meeting legendary N.C. Central basketball coach John B. McLendon at the University of Kansas. Coach McLendon’s mentor was none other than the founder of basketball, James Naismith. Williams acknowledged that “Coach Mac” was the inventor of the four corners and the fast break.
I hope people understand what you have, not only one of the greatest coaches but one of the greatest people you can ever meet.
speaking about LeVelle Moton
“He was the guy who slowed it down (four corners) and speeded it up (fast break),” Williams said. “When Coach Mac was there (at Kansas), I did listen. People around here should be extremely proud of what he accomplished.”
The bond between Williams and Moton is unmistakable.
“A lot of you don’t understand our profession,” Moton said. “We don’t have many friends in this business, but I’m proud to say this man is one of my closest friends. He’s the most honest person I’ve ever met in my life. I know for a fact that he’s lost recruits because he’s so honest.”
But the evening was about the players, too.
Moton introduced his 2016-17 team and lamented again how quickly success can spoil.
“We’ve become a victim of our own success,” Moton said. “(Former coach/athletics director) Bill Hayes told me, ‘The guy who wins just 70 percent of their games, they stay around forever.”
NCCU won its first MEAC championship in 2013-14 and advanced to its first NCAA Tournament as a Division I member. The Eagles lost to Iowa State 93-75 in the first round.
NCCU defended its regular-season title the following year but was upset in the MEAC Tournament semifinals. The team earned its first NIT bid before losing to Miami by four points in the first round.
Last season was a struggle. The Eagles had their 38-game home win streak broken by Howard on a controversial last-second play.
He’s the most honest person I’ve ever met in my life. I know for a fact that he’s lost recruits because he’s so honest.
Levelle Moton, speaking about UNC’s Roy Williams
That loss also ended their 32-game conference win streak. And Moton said later that his players never recovered.
NCCU finished last season at 13-19 overall (7-9 MEAC) and was blown out by Norfolk State in the second round of the MEAC Tournament.
Still, success has come in many forms for the program. Several former players have successful careers overseas, and Moton’s coaching staff has been depleted about three times by bigger named universities.
This season’s squad comprises seven seniors, including Siena transfer Michael Wolf and Coastal Carolina transfer Ron Trapps.
But Moton said the team will go only as far as senior guard Patrick Cole takes it. Cole, who seemed surprised by the remark, said he’s ready to put last season behind him.
“Last year was a little difficult for me. I grew up without a father, and coming here and having that amount of pressure, I did butt heads. But I’m a big believer in learning from failures, and I don’t want to do that again. The only person who’s won a championship on our team is coach Moton.”
NCCU opens its season Nov. 12 at Marshall and plays two more road games before the Eagles’ first home game, on Friday, Nov. 18, versus Jackson State.
N.C. Central Basketball
Player, class, home (prev. school)
Nate Allen, freshman-R, Toledo, Ohio (Bowsher HS)
Kyle Benton, junior, junior, Long Beach, Calif. (San Bernardino Valley CC)
Patrick Cole, junior-R, Newark, N.J. (Siena College)
Jay Copeland, senior-R, Suffolk, Va. (Ball State)
Kevin Crawford II, junior, Blythewood, S.C. (Blythewood HS)
Jamal Ferguson, junior-R, Norfolk, Va. (Marquette)
Dajuan Graf, junior-R, Charlotte (Florida Gulf Coast)
Dante Holmes, senior-R, Baltimore, Md. (Florida Gulf Coast)
Enoch Hood, senior-R, Norfolk, Va. (James Madison)
Jeremiah Ingram, senior, Detroit, Mich. (Colby CC)
Rashaun Madison, junior-R, Norfolk, Va. (New Mexico JC)
Marius McAllister, soph-R, Durham (Hillside HS)
Jeremiah Worthem, junior, Philadelphia, Pa. (Indian Hills CC)
C.J. Wiggins, freshman, Richmond, Va.(Benedictine Prep)
– Raasean Davis, junior, will red-shirt