Eagles fans send team to the big dance
Eagle Pride was on full display Wednesday as hundreds “turnt it up” in front of McDougald–McLendon Gymnasium at N.C. Central University to wish the men’s basketball team good luck in the school’s first-ever NCAA tournament.
The crowd of mostly students, faculty, staff and alums cheered and danced in a cold rain for nearly an hour while they waited to see the team one last time before it boarded a 3 p.m. flight to San Antonio where it plays Iowa State on Friday.
Their patience was rewarded when the team finally emerged from the gym and immediately joined the party, dancing and bopping to a heavy bass line, courtesy of local radio disc jockey Brian Dawkins and his crew.
Emanuel Chapman, a senior guard from Raleigh, took the mic and thanked fans for their support and acknowledged the faithful who waited in the rain.
“Y’all have been holding us down all year,” Chapman said.
He said fan support has been a key to the Eagles’ success this season. “We can’t win games without y’all and y’all can’t brag to friends without us.”
The Eagles gave fans plenty of reason to be boastful this season.
“It’s amazing; it’s history,” said Asha Hicks, a sophomore finance major from Burgaw. “It’s amazing to see this happen and be here to experience it. I think they have the potential to go a long way.”
Chancellor Debra-Saunders White noted that the Eagles won the school’s first conference championship in 50 years last week, defeating Morgan State in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference basketball championship.
“This is a real historical occasion for our university,” said Saunders-White, who teased the crowd with an abbreviated version of the Wobble, a popular dance.
She also noted that the Eagles are getting it done in the classroom.
“Every senior on this team will march in May,” Saunders-White said. “That’s who we are and what we are talking about when we say Eagles soar.”
Also on hand Wednesday was Fred “Pop” Bennett, who helped NCCU to the 1989 Division II NCAA national basketball championship.
“It’s great for the university and it’s great for the city,” Bennett said.
He said if the Eagles “just play their game” then the team as the potential to go far in the tournament.
“I’ve got them getting past Iowa State and Carolina if they play together,” Bennett said. “That’s how we did it.”
Hicks also believes the team can go deep into the tournament.
“I have a lot of faith in them,” Hicks said. “With fan support, talent and hard work, they can go all the way.”