By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
At the stroke of midnight tonight, the lights will shine on the hardwood courts across America as the first day that college basketball teams can officially hold practice is now upon us.
It's Oct. 15 and hoops dreams abound around historically black college/university basketball.
In the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Bowie State and Winston-Salem State have been predicted to be the top teams in CIAA's Northern and Southern Divisions. Winston-Salem State had seniors, Preston Ross and Tyree Desmore, to make the All-CIAA men's team, while Livingstone (predicted to finish second in the Southern Division to the Rams) also had two players on the squad, seniors Jody Hill and Mark "AJ" Thomas.
On the women's side, Elizabeth City State and Shaw are expected to win the Northern and Southern Divisions. Elizabeth City State is led by All-Conference performers DaShera Boone and Derricka Henry. The two predicted runners-up, Virginia Union and Winston-Salem State, each had two All-SIAC picks on their squads (Ashle Freeman and Melyse Brown for VUU and Dionna Scott and Somalia McKinner for the Rams).
In the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, new faces will be the story around the league this season.
Rickey Jackson is Claflin's new men's basketball coach. He served five years as a top assistant at Shaw.
"It is an honor to be here, and we intend to be visible in this
community and build a winning program," he said during his opening press conference. "I am a man of a very few words
but I must thank Shaw University for giving me an opportunity to learn
and grow. Now I am ready to take off. We are going to win, we will win,
and we will win."
Morehouse is coming off a 20-8 season that saw them fall in the SIAC championship game to Benedict. The Maroon Tigers lose three of their top players from last year, though they return the SIAC's Newcomer of the Year from last season, Darrius Williams. But Williams, a former All-SIAC football player at Morehouse, only has one semester of eligibility remaining. He won't be on the court until January. Head coach Grady Brewer is counting on a number of newcomers and junior college transfers to bolster his squad.
They dont get long to get ready. The Maroon Tigers take on the ACC's North Carolina State in Raleigh in early November and then take part in the first annual HBCU Tip-Off Classic at Atlanta's Philips Arena right afterwards.
Stillman's men, who finished 18-9 last season, will play against the likes of Duke, Arizona and Alabama in the Preseason NIT Classic. They take on Alabama in the first round on Nov. 18.
"The Stillman College basketball team and community is very excited to
be one of two teams from Division II selected to play in the renown
Preseason NIT Tournament," Stillman head coach Mike Grant said. "The
opportunity to compete in such a prestigious tournament also speaks
volumes for our program and the brand of basketball played in the SIAC."
On the women's side, Claflin's women also got a new basketball coach as Deont'a McChester takes over a team that was 10-19 last season.
McChester credits his coaching philosophy to legendary Claflin head coach Nelson Bronwlee.
“Coaches may come and coaches may go but it doesn’t mean anything if
you have not have an impact on the players,” said McChester.
Former Grambling assistant coach Erica Henry will be the interim head coach of the Fort Valley State women's basketball team.
The Shreveport, LA native is joining the Lady Wildcats for the first
time as Head Women's basketball coach but this will be Coach Henry's
second stop at FVSU, as she served as an assistant coach in 2011-12
under Coach Lonnie Bartley.