NC Central head coach LeVelle Moton posts a message to his team after NCAA loss

NC Central's Moton on his team after loss: 'They have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.'

NC Central basketball coach LeVelle Moton talks with reporters following the Eagles loss to Texas Southern in the NCAA play-in game in Dayton, Ohio March 14, 2018.
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NC Central basketball coach LeVelle Moton talks with reporters following the Eagles loss to Texas Southern in the NCAA play-in game in Dayton, Ohio March 14, 2018.

Two days after his team saw their magical run come to a disappointing end, North Carolina Central men's basketball coach LeVelle Moton shared an emotional message to his team.

On his Instagram page, Moton posted a picture of the team huddled together in Dayton before their NCAA First Four contest against Texas Southern. The Tigers defeated the Eagles 64-46. It was the lowest scoring output for N.C. Central (19-16) since the 2015 season opener. On Friday morning, Moton posted the message to his team.

A post shared by LeVelle Moton (@levellemoton) on

Moton, who has more than 43,000 Instagram followers, did perhaps one of his best coaching jobs with the 2017-18 team. The Eagles, coming off an appearance in the NCAA tournament in 2017, loss seven seniors, and were picked to finish third in the MEAC. They finished sixth (9-7). After starting the season 6-2 in league play, N.C. Central dropped three in a row in early February, falling out of the race for another league title.

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The Eagles were on a two-game losing streak heading into the regular-season finale before pulling off an upset victory over rival North Carolina A&T, 70-59, in Durham on March 1. That started a five-game winning streak, including four in a row to surprise many fans.

N.C. Central won the MEAC tournament title by defeating Hampton, the No. 1 seed . The Pirates had defeated the Eagles in Durham, 80-67, on Feb. 5, the worst home defeat for N.C. Central this season.

“To be honest, a lot of people gave up on this team,” Moton said after the 71-63 win over Hampton on March 10. “People didn’t believe in us and I told these guys we had to regroup. I saw the end result and the end result was this.”

The Eagles’ Cinderella slipper came off in Dayton, where they shot a season-low 30.4 percent from the field, and went 0-14 from the three-point line, the first time all season they didn’t make a three-pointer in a game. Moton said his players played like they were happy to be there, while the Tigers played like a team desperate to advance.

Moton replaced his veteran club from a year ago -- five redshirt seniors in the starting lineup -- with one of the youngest teams in the country. A pair of freshmen, Jordan Perkins and Reggie Gardner Jr. , started in the backcourt, and a walk-on, John Guerra, who is just 6-2, started at small forward after playing just 22 minutes in 2016-17. Junior forward Zacarry Douglas was in and out of the lineup, and redshirt junior Raasean Davis was the mainstay, starting all 35 games (the only player to do so), leading the team in scoring (15.1) and rebounding (8.7).

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All five starters should return next year, a rarity for Moton, who usually welcomes in a new cast of transfers from year-to-year.

That’s still the case next season with former Cleveland State forward Jibri Blount, who sat out this season, and former Boston College and Saint Louis point guard, Ty Graves, added to the mix.

Five players who saw significant playing time as reserves should also return. And that group doesn’t include guards Alex Mills and Rashann London, two players Moton expected big contributions from this season, who suffered ACL injuries. London, who transferred from Drexel, didn’t play at all this season and Mills only played 21 minutes.

With who he has returning and the expectations from the guys who had to sit out next year, 2018-19 could be even bigger for the Eagles.

“The future looks bright,” Moton said. “London would have helped us so much. Jibri Blount will fill in. He’s a mature guy, and we have some kids in the recruiting process who have committed and we have to finalize recruiting. You couple that with the fact you do have returners, then the future looks bright.”