Eagle fans proud of basketball team
It was cold and wet Tuesday, but not too cold or too wet to stop Larry Beatty and his wife, Margaret, from making a trip to the N.C. Central University bookstore.
The Beattys made the trip to buy T-shirts proclaiming the NCCU men’s basketball team Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions.
“It’s been an awesome year, very exciting,” said Margaret Beatty, a 1972 graduate of the university.
The Beattys also collected a prized photograph with NCCU Coach LeVelle Moton, who as luck would have it for them, was also visiting the bookstore.
“You want to see it,” asked Margaret Beatty, pulling up the photo on her cell phone.
Stephanie Getchell, manager of the NCCU bookstore, said she has seen an uptick in fans like the Beattys coming into the store to buy merchandise and to support the team.
“It doesn’t matter whether its football or basketball, when the school is winning, people show up to support their school,” Getchell said.
The Eagles won the MEAC championship Saturday in Norfolk, defeating Morgan State University 71-62.
The victory earned NCCU its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
NCCU, a 14th seed in the NCAAs, will face Iowa State on Friday night in the East Region in San Antonio.
The Eagles are in the same tournament bracket as UNC, and the teams will play each other in the next round if both win Friday.
Ellain Brooks, a 1944 graduate of NCCU, can hardly contain her excitement about the Eagles’ good fortune.
“I’m so excited I don’t what to make of it,” Brooks said. “And I’m also so happy that I can participate in it.”
Brooks, 89, traveled to Norfolk for the MEAC tournament last week, but will probably watch the Eagles in the NCAAs on television.
“My mind said, ‘Ellain, don’t overdo it,” Brooks said.
When Brooks attended NCCU, founder James E. Shepard was president.
When asked what Shepard would say about the basketball team earning a berth in the NCAA Tourney, Brooks said she is certain he knows all about the Eagles’ special season.
“He knows what’s going on and he’s saying ‘Eagle Pride, Amplified’ and Coach [John] McLendon knows too,” said Brooks, who is also a member of the Eagles Club, which raises money to support the school’s athletic programs.
McClendon was the basketball coach of what was known as the North Carolina College for Negroes when he coached there from 1941-52.
His name is on the school’s McDougald--McLendon Gymnasium. Gerald Price, an NCCU alumnus, said he has been impressed by the Eagles all season.
Price said he won’t make it to San Antonio, but hasn’t ruled out a trip to Arlington, Texas, if the Eagles advance to the Final Four.
“If they make the championship game, I’ll drop everything and go,” Price said.
Price, a member of the Eagle Club’s finance committee, said he hopes NCCU’s entry into the NCAA tourney will trigger an outpouring of support, both morally and financially.
He said the Eagle Club has donated about $750,000 to NCCU athletic teams since the booster club was founded in 2010.
“Hopefully, this will inspire people to open up their pocketbooks and give to the cause because we certainly need it,” Price said.
Like others who support NCCU athletics, Price is aware of the benefits the national exposure will mean for the campus.
He said playing in the tournament should not only make it easier to recruit top athletes but also top students.
“This will give the nation an introduction to NCCU athletics and it will also help shine a light on what the university has to offer academically,” Price said.