North Carolina Central women’s basketball coach Vanessa Taylor enters her fourth season at a crossroads.
Gone is associate head coach Ronnie Enoch after parents complained over alleged inappropriate conduct with some of the players. Also gone are some of those same players.
The Eagles (5-11 MEAC, 7-22 overall) finished a disappointing No. 9 last season and are predicted to finish 12th in the MEAC. NCCU has yet to get its engine roaring under Taylor, and with just two seniors, this may be another rebuilding season.
“I think we learned a lot,” Taylor said. “But last year we had four seniors that started for us. We have moved into somewhat of a facelift. You will see eight new faces playing on the floor this year.”
Junior guard Morgan Jones is the only returning starter. She was second on the team in scoring with 9.1 points per game. Senior forward Tisha Dixon will try to get her groove back after an injury-filled season, while senior Kristin Askew will add needed veteran leadership and experience.
Guards Monique Whaley-Briggs and Kierona Morton are the remaining two teammates with any playing experience under Taylor.
“We have increased our team speed and overall effectiveness with the new additions to the team,” Taylor said. “As a team, we will operate in truth daily, hold each other accountable, and it sets the stage for the kind of chemistry that will propel us forward and create an exciting brand of basketball for our fans to watch.”
NCCU hosts Campbell on Nov. 16.
Men seek three-peat
What to do for an encore, and an encore and an encore? That’s the dilemma the Eagles are starting to face each season as the program builds upon its success.
Two seasons ago, it was a MEAC championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament – both firsts in school history. Last season saw an undefeated conference season – another first – but an upset in the tourney semifinals sent the team to the NIT instead of the Big Dance.
For most programs, especially an HBCU team, all that still would have been a success, but Eagles fans have become just a little spoiled in three years.
“The NCAA, that is everyone’s childhood dream right now because that’s just the way of the world. To get on that grand scale and experience both, obviously the NCAA is the No. 1 choice,” said coach LeVelle Moton who enters his seventh season with a 114-75 record. “However, the NIT can’t be frowned upon, especially for a program such as ours.
“When I took over the program, people just wanted me to win one more game than we won in previous years. Then they wanted me to win three games. Then the next year, they said just beat (N.C.) A&T. Then they said just win 10 games. And now anything short of a championship is considered failure. The expectations continue to increase.”
All five Eagle starters were named to all-MEAC teams, however only one return in Dante Holmes. Redshirt senior Jay Copeland received a medical hardship after suffering a knee injury and will return for his senior year.
Also back are guards Jeremiah Ingram and Jamal Ferguson, seniors Enoch Hood, and Rashaun Madison, junior Kevin Crawford II and redshirt sophomore guard Marius McAllister.
Coming in will be seven newcomers to incorporate into the mix.
“I tell our team right now, you’ve been given a Porsche. Your job is to keep it clean, bring it back with a full tank of gas and not crash it. That’s your job. They (new players) are coming in with privilege, like Puffy Combs children. They haven’t worked for it or earned it,” Moton said.
The Eagles open their season Nov. 13 at Clemson.