NCCU's Moton goes back to his Raleigh roots

Jun. 06, 2014 @ 07:26 PM

Signs all over Daniels Middle School hailed the return of a campus legend Friday afternoon.

N.C. Central basketball coach LeVelle Moton might as well had been LeBron James when the spotlight in Daniels’ auditorium led him down the aisle with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders’ hands reaching for his.

“This is pretty much the inception of me becoming something that I thought I could be,” Moton said after being honored as an accomplished Daniels alumnus.

Bob Schmalfeld, Moton’s basketball coach at Daniels, days ago fished out Moton’ old No. 23 Blue Jackets jersey.

The jersey was framed and presented to Moton, who also left his alma mater with a Daniels team picture from his playing days there.

Moton returned the love by giving the school an autographed photo of the 2013-14 NCCU basketball team that he coached to the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance.

The trip down memory lane included a stop by the basketball court at Daniels, where Moton used to do his thing.

“When I was small, the gym seemed so big, and now that I’m big, it seems so small,” Moton said.

Much has changed at Daniels, but Schmalfeld, 63, continues to be a fixture.

Schmalfeld said he really didn’t have anything to do with Moton’s development as a basketball player.

“You could tell he was a really good shooter, but he hadn’t physically matured yet,” Schmalfeld recalled. “You could tell he was going to be a ballplayer.”

Moton became the main man at Raleigh’s Enloe High School and turned in a hall-of-fame career at NCCU from 1992-96. He could really shoot the basketball and parlayed that skill into a professional career overseas.

Schmalfeld said Moton would have been just fine without his coaching.

“He brought it from inside,” Schmalfeld explained.

“That’s not the truth,” Moton declared. “That man changed my entire life.”

Moton might have arrived at Daniels with plenty of game, but he was feeling himself a little bit, too.

So Schmalfeld kicked him out of practice one day.

“He was the first person to challenge me and tell me I wasn’t as good of a basketball player as I thought I was,” Moton said.

Moton phoned Schmalfeld the other day. It had been a couple of decades since the two had talked. Moton said he didn’t have an opportunity to identify himself before Schmalfeld called his name. After all these years, the old coach recognized his former player’s voice. That’s Schmalfeld, who back in the day would pick up Moton on Fridays and take him to high school basketball games in Raleigh, giving the kid something to shoot for.

Schmalfeld, who said he still has the official scoring books from Moton’s days at Daniels, now only coaches football as an assistant as he draws closer to retirement. He was an assistant football coach at Daniels when Moton was the team’s backup quarterback.

Now, Moton’s one of these guys with star power and probably doesn’t want folks knowing he was a backup either to anybody or for anything, but that’s the way it was, Schmalfeld said.

As far as basketball, though, Moton — who was the man both at Enloe and NCCU — was the main attraction at Daniels.

“I got MVP of the team,” Moton said.

Moton said he didn’t set out to be a Division I basketball coach. All he ever wanted to do with his life was make his mama proud, Moton said.