Antwan Meyers arrived for girls basketball practice on a recent Saturday morning at Southeast Raleigh High School, complete with an ample supply of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and orange juice.
Antwan’s wife, Nicole, started the tradition a few years ago of celebrating championships with sweets and refreshments for her team. On this occasion, Southeast Raleigh had clinched the Cap 7 Conference regular-season title the night before with a 61-3 (yes, 3!) victory over Raleigh Sanderson.
The doughnuts never get old, just as Nicole Meyers and her Bulldogs never tire of winning championships. In her 13 seasons at the helm, Meyers’ teams have won a combined 17 of a possible 21 conference regular-season and tournament titles. They reached the state Class 4A title game in 2014, 2015 and 2017, only to lose each time.
When reminded that Dean Smith’s North Carolina teams played in six Final Fours before his Tar Heels finally won the 1982 national crown, Meyers could only laugh at the thought of enduring that much agony.
“I hope it doesn’t take that long,” Meyers said.
This could be the season that Southeast Raleigh finally wins it all. The Bulldogs are unbeaten and ranked 15th nationally by USA Today. They have outscored opponents by an average 62-24 margin.
“I feel we’re in position,” Meyers said. “Everybody tells me there is something different about this team. . . . They play for each other.”
That has been a characteristic of her teams since Meyers was elevated when the school’s only other head coach, William Powell, departed following the 2006 season. Powell guided Southeast Raleigh to at least 20 wins in each of his nine seasons at the helm, including a state championship in 1999.
So, while six seniors had departed when Meyers took over at age 26, she still inherited a foundation that was cemented in place. Her teams have won 20 or more games every season since, playing a style of basketball she first learned at Rocky Mount High School under long-time coach Pam Gainey.
“Our girls play an exciting brand of basketball, but it’s disciplined,” Meyers said. “Full-court man-to-man, all-game long. We’re going to pressure for 32 minutes. . . . One of the things that makes folks gravitate to what we do is we’re big on discipline.”
That discipline means six days of lengthy practice sessions and a demand that the 10th and 11th players on the roster work equally as hard as the starters. It is a style that has young women wanting to play at the magnet school, and fans supporting the program in droves.
Those fans pack Southeast Raleigh’s 1,500-seat gym for games against rivals, when the school’s pep band plays. Sizable crowds are the norm for most all other home games. They love winning, and Southeast Raleigh has rewarded them with 73 homecourt wins over the past 76 games since 2013, including the past 31 in a row.
“You have to make it something people want to come and see. Nobody wants to come and see people score 25 points in 32 minutes,” Meyers said. “With all the talent that we have in this area, there is no reason the stands shouldn’t be full.”
Meyers is quick to caution that her staff does not engage in recruiting of players, instead noting that the best players want to compete in a winning program, and her program sports an overall 304-38 record in her 12 seasons. The lone senior on the team, Jada McMillian, said she moved from Knightdale to live with her father in Garner so she could play at Southeast Raleigh.
Meyers said the program has more to offer than academics and athletics. Every graduating senior over the past three seasons has had an opportunity to play basketball in college. McMillian will play next season at Charlotte, and each of the team’s five juniors – Tamia Davis, Nevaeh Haddock, Maya Johnson, Imajee McNeely and Jada Person – is likely to earn a college basketball scholarship.
“At the end of the day it’s about so much more than winning basketball games,” Meyers said. “We want these girls to win at life. The discipline that we’re teaching them through their years at Southeast we want that to carry on with them throughout their adult years.”
That, and winning championships.
Doughnuts and orange juice are in order if Southeast Raleigh should again win the Eastern Regional championship and advance to the title game. There might be a change of plan, though, should the Bulldogs capture the state crown.
“We’re going to think of something good to do,” Meyers said. “Maybe a block party in my neighborhood.”
Year-by-year records for Southeast Raleigh girls basketball under coach Nicole Meyers: