NCAA OPENER: NCCU coach's mind on hospitalized son, 1
There was a guy during N.C. Central’s practice who was knocking down 3-pointer after 3-pointer after 3-pointer.
NCCU coach LeVelle Moton was feeling it behind the arc, in a groove, in a zone.
Perhaps it was a comfort zone, a place to which Moton could retreat for a few minutes to take his mind off his 1-year-old son.
LeVelle Jr. was hospitalized after knocking over some hot coffee that spilled on his face Tuesday night, Moton said.
NCCU plays Iowa State today at AT&T Center in a second-round NCAA Tournament game (9:50 p.m., TNT). It’s NCCU’s first time in the tournament, a monumental moment in the history of the program.
But Moton’s mind is on his baby boy.
“Right now he’s in the hospital, and I stayed there with him on Tuesday night,” Moton said Thursday. “I’ve been calling, checking up on him, and he’s still there. You know, it makes it hard to enjoy. You work your entire life to get to this moment, and one thing I learned is that success is nothing without someone that you love to share it with. I walk into an incredible hotel that looks like an apartment, and I’m in there by myself, and it just doesn’t feel the same — with my son and my daughter and my wife, who sacrifice so much to allow me to become a better person and a better basketball coach, and this unfortunate situation, this unfortunate accident — that they’re not here. That’s my ritual before the game.”
Before NCCU games, Moton’s daughter, Brooke, makes a heart symbol with her little fingers through which she blows a kiss, and he returns the gesture.
Brooke did that a week ago after NCCU won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament, and it brought Moton to tears on national TV.
“This week has been a roller coaster for me both emotionally and personally,” Moton said. “So that’s humbled me. That’s put the pin to my balloon right there. So I’ve just got to get myself together, which I will, to go coach these 12, 13 young men that we have.”
Moton has preached toughness to his team and will have to embody that today against the Cyclones.
“This is big-boy basketball. This is pretty much the major leagues, and we definitely have our hands full with what I believe is the best offensive team in the country in Iowa State,” Moton said.
The Cyclones average 82.9 points per game with Melvin Ejim (18.1 ppg), DeAndre Kane (17 ppg) and Georges Niang (16.5 ppg) providing double-digit scoring.
“I’ve always said this about the Big 12, in any conference that’s pretty much superior, in order to win in those elite conferences such as that, those power conferences, you have to have three pros. They definitely have three pros,” Moton said. “The difference between the teams that we’ve played in our conference that’s been bigger, faster, stronger and this team is they’ve got at least three pros on their team. When you let that marinate, you’ve got your hands full, because, at any moment, any one of those kids can kill you.”
NCCU is the type of team that just has to keep playing defense no matter what, Moton said. Even if the Eagles’ shots aren’t falling, they can’t let that get them off what produced a 28-5 season — plenty of defense, he said.
NCCU, a No. 14 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament, won’t be scared of No. 3 Iowa State, NCCU senior Jeremy Ingram said.
The Eagles this season beat N.C. State and held their own against Cincinnati and Wichita State, all of them participants in the Big Dance.
“I wouldn’t say we have to shut down a certain player. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year. That is playing good team defense,” Ingram said. “Make it a tough shot, contest and rebound and do what we do.”
It won’t be an upset if NCCU beats 26-7 Iowa State, Ingram said.
“No, we wouldn’t look at it that way,” Ingram said. “We come into every game feeling like we belong and we’re going to win. So we’re just going to come out with the same attitude we’ve approached all year from the beginning of the season until now.”
Niang, too, said it wouldn’t be an upset if NCCU wins. The Eagles belong in the Big Dance, he said.
“I don’t like to think of us losing, but N.C. Central is a really good team,” Niang said. “They have older guys. They’re an older group. They know how to play the game. They’ve won 20 straight, so when we go to prep for this team, it’s like prepping for a team like Kansas, a dominant team in their league.
“We’re not underestimating anybody in this tournament. Seeding’s are absolutely out the window for us,” Niang said. “They’ve won 20 in a row. We, for sure, have to respect them.”
TALE OF THE TAPE: NCCU vs. IOWA STATE
|Opp. Avg. Pts.||73.9||58.5|
|Opp. FG Pct.||.414||.373|
|3-Pt. FG Pct.||.351||.338|
|Opp. 3-Pt. FG Pct.||.336||.295|
|Opp. 3-Pt. FG-Game||7.2||5.4|
IOWA STATE ROSTER
Iowa State Roster/117
Iowa State Cyclones Roster
The Associated Press
Coach: Fred Hoiberg
|3 Melvin Ejim||F||6-6||220||Sr||Toronto|
|4 Sherron Dorsey-Walker||G||6-4||200||Fr||Detroit|
|11 Monte Morris||G||6-2||170||Fr||Flint,||Mich.|
|15 Naz Long||G||6-4||205||So||Mississauga,||Ontario|
|21 Matt Thomas||G||6-3||200||Fr||Onalaska,||Wis.|
|22 Dustin Hogue||F||6-6||215||Jr||Yonkers,||N.Y.|
|24 Percy Gibson||C||6-9||255||Jr||Detroit|
|31 Georges Niang||F||6-7||240||So||Methuen,||Mass.|
|33 Tyler Ellerman||F||6-8||240||Sr||Dallas Center,||Iowa|
|42 Daniel Edozie||F||6-8||245||Jr||Compton,||Calif.|
|50 DeAndre Kane||G||6-4||200||Sr||Pittsburgh|
NC Central Roster/137
North Carolina Central Eagles Roster
The Associated Press
Coach: LeVelle Moton
|0 Dante Holmes||G||6-3||190||So||Baltimore|
|1 Jay Copeland||F||6-7||255||Jr||Suffolk,||Va.|
|2 Jordan Parks||F||6-7||200||Jr||Queens,||N.Y.|
|3 Juwan Moody||G||6-1||175||Fr||Pontiac,||Mich.|
|4 Kevin Crawford II||G||6-1||150||Fr||Blythewood,||S.C.|
|5 Ebuka Anyaorah||G||6-4||194||Sr||Suwanee,||Ga.|
|10 Karamo Jawara||F||6-8||220||Jr||Bergen,||Norway|
|12 Antonin Galaya||G||6-5||200||Sr||St. Martin,||French West Indies|
|13 Reggie Groves||G||6-2||190||Sr||Raleigh,||N.C.|
|14 Jeremy Ingram||G||6-3||175||Sr||Charlotte,||N.C.|
|32 Emanuel Chapman||G||6-1||160||Sr||Raleigh,||N.C.|
|40 Alfonzo Houston||G||6-3||190||Sr||Cleveland Heights,||Ohio,|