Eagles will need to focus vs. FAMU
N.C. Central guard Ray Willis’ final run through the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference begins in earnest today.
Willis will be NCCU’s lone senior in the lineup when the Eagles tip it on the road against Florida A&M (6 p.m., nccueaglepride.com).
NCCU senior Ebuka Anyaorah remains sidelined after breaking his foot in November. He was on crutches before the Christmas break but was walking without them earlier in the week at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium, huddling with his teammates during timeouts against Virginia University of Lynchburg.
The Eagles won that game 97-28, but Anyaorah — he suited up for Georgia before transferring to NCCU — didn’t play, wearing street clothes and a medical boot on his injured foot. Anyaorah, who was a starter before his injury, could return soon, according to NCCU spokesman Chris Hooks.
Before the season started, Willis, Anyaorah and junior Jeremy Ingram were expected to provide the leadership that Dominique Sutton brought to the floor a year ago.
Sutton, now in the NBA Development League with the Tulsa 66ers, bruised down low for buckets and brought an edge to the Eagles after transferring from Kansas State.
Willis, Anyaorah and Ingram are more perimeter-oriented, with Ingram leading the Eagles in scoring at 15.9 points per game.
There was a two-week stretch in December when Ingram led the MEAC in scoring, averaging 23 points and getting at least 20 points in four straight games.
Newcomer Stanton Kidd, a junior, is averaging 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, with Willis giving the Eagles 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds.
Willis scored a quiet 16 points against VUL on Tuesday, and he worked the glass for five rebounds. Willis (6-6, 164) likely had more in him, but the game was a blowout, and he played just 20 minutes.
There probably won’t be much time for Willis to rest like that in MEAC games, and Moton is expecting the Oklahoma transfer to be consistent.
“Ray is a grown man now,” Moton said. “Ray has been here for three years, so Ray has to understand how to get himself going. He’s got to stay aggressive and be aggressive on the defensive end of the floor.
“Ray has bad games when he’s not good defensively, because he’s just concentrating on one end of the floor. He knows that. We’ve discussed that.”
Moton said he understands how difficult it may be for Willis, a preseason All-MEAC selection, and his teammates to stay focused.
“It’s not about being pretty; it’s not about being sexy,” Moton said. “It’s about coming out here and grinding and making plays that are going to propel us to victory.”
Valuing the basketball helps in that regard, and NCCU point guard Emanuel Chapman is doing a good job with that, coming to the floor with a 2.9 assist-turnover ratio.
“You can’t throw it away on the road,” Moton said. “You’ve got to execute on the road, take care of the basketball and make your free throws. That’s the formula for winning basketball games in this conference on the road.”
The bottom line is NCCU (8-7, 1-0 MEAC) must execute better, Moton said.
“We have to stop making the ‘My-bads,’” Moton said, referring to players pointing to themselves to fess up after making mistakes. “We need ‘My-goods.’ My-goods are what we need. We can’t have those my-bads, and that comes from focus and concentration.”