AFTER GAME THOUGHTS
12/12 - at Virginia St. - L, 84-78
We suffered a tough loss last night. But, in defeat, I did notice growth in our performance. We are implementing a four-guard offensive philosophy with a heavy focus on driving to the basket and passing to the open player. For the first time this season, our team produced longer stretches of dedication to the offensive identity. Our goal is to lengthen that focus throughout the game.
Our post players did well scoring and passing from the block.
Although our defensive identity is man to man, we performed well when we mixed it up a bit. But once again, we must stay true to our scouting report. We need to focus on defending shooters like shooters and close the lanes against slashers.
Our games conclude late in the evening. So, I was not able to meet the alumni chapter that traveled to support the program. Moving forward, I plan to welcome our alumni chapters during our Women's' contests. The LadyRams staff and players are always there to support us, and we will always be there to support them.
We look forward to seeing you in Richmond, this Saturday. Our Women's contest starts at 2 pm. Our Men's contest begins at 4 pm. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr. (#GoRams)
12/2 - Claflin - L, 60-53
We suffered a tough loss during our first regular-season road game. The Orangeburg, South Carolina crowd did a fine job welcoming our newcomers to the CIAA. It’s especially important to execute on both sides of the floor when entering the opponent's home court. Their fans and players were intense, leaving us little room for error.
One obvious concern was how we defended their shooters and slashers. We gave their shooters space and allowed their slashers to drive. That’s a formula for disaster. It was like our players mixed up the scouting report. But, even with that glaring issue, we held Claflin to under 65 points.
On the offensive end, we shot and missed too many three-pointers (4-20). We also did not protect the ball well. Our 14 turnovers lead to 16 fast-break points for Claflin, and that was the difference in the game.
We will do our homework, watch the film, make adjustments, and be ready for another road battle vs. ECSU.
In closing, congratulations to our women's program, who was victorious in their contest in South Carolina. - Cleo Hill Jr.
11/25 - Lincoln University - W, 84-70
After the Piedmont International game, I remember asking one of our injured players, "There's no way we can continue to shoot so poorly, right?" The player answered, "No way, I doubt it."
In that game, we were 3-15 from beyond the three-point line, and our percentage from the field wasn't much better. Combining our first four games and our scrimmage against the Tar Heels, we were shooting under 40 percent from the field and under 20 percent from beyond the three-point arc. One would say the numbers told the story.
In our last two games, we are shooting close to 60 percent from the field and a blazing 53 percent from three-point land. I could also say it's all in the numbers... but it's all about the BUY-IN.
I have a GREAT coaching staff. Together we created a culture of accountability. Going back to the numbers, 75 percent of our locker room has bought into what we are coaching. The goal is to reach 100 percent of the locker room. Sometimes I feel like that only happens in the movies. For example, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. A homework assignment for anyone under 40. Watch the movie... twice.
As we all take a much needed and deserved break, I hope our players, the coaching staff and our HEAD COACH can take a break from the basketball numbers. Enjoy family, food, and fellowship. This lifetime seems long..but it's not. Those family members you have not hugged in a while, do so. God will call on us to make a difference in someone's life when we least expect it. Be thankful for your family. Remember, F.A.M.I.L.Y is an acronym, standing for Forget About Me I Love You.
Thank you for the support in Gaines! Hope to see you on the Road! Happy Thanksgiving! - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
11/23 - Bowie St. - W, 88-65
I'm pleased with our victory over Bowie St. Our players endured the challenge and defeat the team selected to win the CIAA, this year. We played with an edge and focus, ready to prove a point.
One of the most underrated responsibilities of being a head coach is molding young, unfinished men into solid husbands and fathers.
Coaching goes well beyond the X's and O's or making sure they touch a line during team sprints. Our young men have childhood experiences. No student enters Winston-Salem State University as a perfect person or player. As a coaching staff, our goal is for our players to graduate as a man who is far superior to the individual who entered. This is an ever-evolving task. Receiving wide-eyed recruits with egos, insecurities, and laser focus to be professional athletes, only reoccurs with a new recruiting class.
Coaches wear many hats. Some efforts lead to winning on the basketball court, while more lead to winning in life.
Tonight's contest was about team growth through accountability. Our players will need the accountability trait throughout the season, when they walk across the graduation stage, and beyond.
Monday, we battle Lincoln. Please come out and support our young men. - Cleo Hill Jr.
11/19 - Piedmont International - W, 77-64
Former NBA player and Piedmont International's head coach Josh Howard had his team prepared for battle. It became an uphill climb for us, due to our slow start, something that should never happen in the Gaines Center. We will study the film and make the proper adjustments.
As we piece together different rotations, I notice common positive and negative trends. Our players show flashes of executing just what we coach, but our lack of focus tends to last too long.
Jaylen Alston and Mason Harrell performed well throughout the contest. Their focus and energy were keys to victory.
Overall, we still need to clean up a few things. The top two areas of opportunity are defense fundamentals and attacking the 2-3 zone. There's a lot of work ahead of us, including getting healthy.
Please come out and support both our Men's and Women's teams this Saturday vs Bowie State at 2 pm and 4 pm!!! - Cleo Hill Jr
11/16 - Morehouse (CIAA/SIAC Challenge) - L, 66-64
Not winning a game can be deflating. But, when you lose on a buzzer-beater, it's very deflating. It's been a while since I lost on a last-second shot.
I believe a game is never determined by the last play's execution. Instead, I believe the game's outcome emerges due to the fundamentals and execution throughout the contest.
There are clearly defined rules when it comes to a team that relies on driving to the basket, kicking it out to the open man, shot selection, and free throw shooting. I will do a better job defining those rules with our team.
We learned a lot about ourselves while playing in the Classic. It's great for our team to play another conference, early in the season. We learned our strengths and areas of opportunity which will prepare us for our conference play.
Our student body community, alumni, band, cheerleaders, dance team, and DJ did not disappoint! We hope to see you on Tuesday, as we battle cross-town rivals, Josh Howard and Piedmont International! - Cleo Hill Jr
11/15 - Fort Valley St. (CIAA/SIAC Challenge) - W, 74-55
As coaches, we relish the grind of film study, recruiting talent, scouting an opponent, and analyzing concepts. But, the more I coach, the more I realize the success of a team is more about reaching these young men on a personal level.
Coming together to build a "TEAM FIRST" mindset can be challenging, in this "ME FIRST" world. Following every contest, numbers can support our bright spots and our areas of opporunity, our victories, and defeats. But, numbers don't always tell the complete story. There are hidden variables in the formula of competition, and if you aren't paying close attention, you will miss it.
Friday, we started a freshman post player (Garner, NC) and played a 5'5 point guard (Raleigh, NC). Neither player scored a field goal in the contest. BUT, their energy, presence, and listening skills made all the difference in the outcome. I am excited to mold these young men to persevere on the court and beyond. EDUCATION THROUGH ATHLETICS is a purpose that we will instill in our players for the court, life, and the real world. – Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
11/12 - UNC Pembroke - L, 75-64
We had some bright spots in the game and positives to build on, going forward. But, we need to execute with more consistency. First game jitters caused fundamental basketball errors on the offensive side of the ball and the defensive side of the ball. As a coaching staff, we look forward to cleaning up the errors on the court, play with more energy and passion, and our players’ desire to work hard on the defensive end of the floor.
This season will be filled with the classic match of size versus speed. Tonight, size won out. We missed key rebounds against our larger competition. All in all, I feel like we have some positive things to build on for a quick turnaround on Friday as we host Fort Valley State in the CIAA vs. SIAC Challenge. The tip-off is at 8 pm. Shaw and Morehouse College will play at 6 pm. We need the home crowd to come out and show everyone who has the best crowd in the country. – Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
11/1 - at North Carolina DI #6 - L, 96-61
The 2019 Homecoming week was the most anticipated event in some time. To reflect on all the festivities is impossible, but Friday, November 1st is a day I will never forget. A special THANK YOU goes out to Coach Roy Williams, the North Carolina Tar Heels, and their leadership.
I am proud of our players' effort and preparation. However, simulating the excitement, the atmosphere, and the opponent's size was not an easy task.
The players' focus throughout the week had its ebbs and flows, which can be expected with so many great Homecoming activities on campus. But, to our players' credit, our shootaround was filled with intensity, the day of the game.
The start of the game was more than sluggish, due to jitters and not wanting to make a mistake. After scoring 6 points, we went 0 for 8 on the next eight possessions. I thought we settled down a bit and finished the half strong.
At the start of the 2nd half, we looked like the team I envisioned, playing up-tempo, driving and kicking, and making great decisions. For the remainder of the contest, our execution was not as consistent as I would like it to be.
The scrimmage was a great experience for our young men to look back on later in our conference season and national play. More importantly, they can look back on the experience later in life and use it for teaching moments and reflections. Playing against a storied program like UNC is an accomplishment. They definitely have great pride in their tradition and it shows. Now, our guys can look at our tradition, our conference championships, tournament bids, and a National Championship. We will begin to take great pride in knowing OUR history, traditions, legendary players, coaches, and students.
For me personally, I am disappointed after losing any contest but my development as a coach, motivator, and mentor of young men MUST go to another level. I can definitely thank UNC, coach William's and his staff for keeping my teams, my staff, and my individual fire lit!