2021-2022 AFTER GAME THOUGHTS
A Weekend of Firsts
Well, the 2021-22 college basketball season has officially come to an end. I will eventually give my thoughts on the entire season. I attended the final four weekends in New Orleans. It was a great experience and a weekend of "firsts". The Tar Heels and Blue Devils squared off for the first time in the history of the Final Four. It was a great game and for me to have coached against both schools twice...
It was also a first for the HBCA ALL-STAR GAME. It did not disappoint! Coach Wilson and I were there to support our ALL CIAA performer Javonte Cooke!
Travis Williams, Cy Alexander, and their staff put on a first-class event. They named both teams after two historically black college coaching LEGENDS! Team John Mclendon and Team Bighouse Gaines! Student-athletes were selected from the CIAA, SIAC, MEAC, and SWAC. The athletes participated in a pro-combine and team workout in front of NBA and professional scouts. It was awesome!
There was a great crowd on the campus of The University of New Orleans. The atmosphere was electric and professionally done. There were great halftime activities from some of the best HBCU bands in the country and a few Greek fraternities in the area also did a few steps!
The game itself had great action. There were dunks, 3 pointers and the guys played extremely hard for the fans/scouts! I was impressed by how well both teams played together. I thought Javonte played well. He shot the ball well, but his energy and team play was very good! He played most of the game at the point guard spot, a position he has not played. I thought he did very well on the fly. We had representation from our league (CIAA) as well: Peeples (VA Union), Seegars ( Fayetteville St) Elmore (Livingston college), and our very own Javonte Cooke. I thought all of the CIAA players represented themselves and their institutions very well.
Also, CIAA Coach of the year Corey Lowery (Lincoln University) was one of the coaches for Team Bighouse Gaines. Even though Team Bighouse Gaines didn't get the win, both teams played very well.
In the end, it was a great experience for all involved. Hats off and congratulations to both teams and coaches. A special thank you to Travis, Cy, and their staff for making an event like this happen!
New Orleans was a great host for the final four and the HBCU ALL-STAR game! The city was alive and the food was great!
A week or so later, I was invited to speak at the Salvation Army Ken Carlson Boys & Girls Club of Winston -Salem. For the first time, what was supposed to be a 10-15 minutes visit, turned into over an hour! Mrs. Floyd and her staff have a great group of young ladies and young gentlemen!
I spoke a bit about what I do as a coach and how important academics and character is to me and my program. After that, the students had so many great questions. It was great that the topic of attending college and participating in sports was super intriguing to them. The questions ranged from: What are the qualifications to enter college and play sports? What is the difference between Division 1, 2, 3, and Junior college? How much is tuition at WSSU? Do all colleges have the same tuition cost? Do the students/athletes have access to tutors?
There were so many more, I thought it turned into a great question and answer session! I will look to return in the fall with my entire team and staff. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 59
Virginia Union University- 71
The Season Has Come to an End
I give all the credit to the Virginia Union’s team and Jay Butler's staff. Union came ready to play for sure. Coach Butler is a CIAA Champion as a coach and player. We knew it would be a tough fight, but the opening defensive possession saw Union get almost six cracks at scoring. In a nutshell that is where the key to the game started for us. How would we control the defensive backboards? Union had 24 offensive rebounds in this one game. They outrebounded us 45-26.
Early on, I thought we were solid in other areas. We advanced the ball quickly in transition and got good shots. As Union’s transition defense got better then our next hurdle was the 2-3 circle zone which Union has used forever. I thought we struggled against it most of the night.
In the 2nd half, I thought our own 2-3 zone had its moments and we were able to rebound a little better than our man-to-man defense. In our man-to-man, I thought Union rebounded well and they executed their offense, getting layups and anything else they wanted in the painted area.
Down the stretch, I thought we had our chances. Down by 6 with 3:52 to go, we gave up a basket AND a foul which pushed their lead up to 9 and that was about it.
As a staff, we are well aware of improvements that needed to be made and we will look to do that next season. The turnout Thursday and Friday from the RAMILY faithful was amazing as always. The alumni came out, the Red Team, and The Red Sea of Sound were all there and supporting with passion. My team, staff, and especially myself thank you all for the support in the tournament and through the entire year and we will be back in the chip game in 2023! - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
St. Augustine University - 57
Winston-Salem State University - 86
I felt the team was laser-focused at breakfast. Nobody was late for breakfast, which sounds like a small thing, but it's not. My coaches and I talked a little about strategy and the focus of the players. Study Hall was normal and Mr. Harris has been great at keeping us on task. The guys seemed to want to get off their feet.
A mid-day shootaround was another chance for me to observe body language, attitude, and energy. They checked all of the boxes. I felt the Seniors were locked in Hicklin, Cooke, and Campbell, great to see.
We came back to the hotel and ran over the scouting reports again and brief coaches meeting and that's it. Ready to play! We got back to the arena and watched the Lincoln vs Livingstone game! Our pre-game was great and the guys seemed ready.
The game started, as usual, nip and tuck, but I felt we were loose. Midway through the 1st half, we felt like we were doing a good job on their two best players, but the others were effective. We gathered our data yet again and the defense got stingy. We played well in transition and surprisingly well in the half-court sharing the ball. We led 37-26 at the half.
The halftime focus was on defense, energy, and throwing the first punch of the 2nd half. We did just THAT! We put together some great defense and Cooke got going early and often! Campbell and Teel also got going. Parson steady the ship like a true PG! Quietly, Hicklin also put his paw prints on the game with rebounding. I felt like this was the best TEAM win since I have been the head coach of the RAMS!
Today will be a tough one but we are definitely up for the challenge of defending our Championship! The Rams were in the building yet again! I didn't know an entire building could travel to another state. C.E. Gaines was in Maryland. The Red sea of sound, the Cheer Red Team, Women's BBall, alumni, faculty, and staff were in the building! Believe me, the guys feel it when they are playing! We are so appreciative. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State Unversity - 98
Livingstone College - 99 OT
The story seems to be the same every night. We played another game against a former CIAA Tournament Champion and a former CIAA Coach of the Year, Coach Stinson. I believe he is also the last coach to have back-to-back CIAA Championships. All of that just to say these wins are VERY hard to come by.
It is a feat in itself to sweep teams in this league. The game was full of highs and lows. It was senior day for the Blue Bears, so it was an emotional night. For the first time in a while, we got off to a great start leading by five. Of course, they stormed back and the score went back and forth with so many 3-pointers and high-flying dunks! We were down at half by 5 points.
The second half was much of the same with our defense not performing at its best, we ended up in a shootout with the top-scoring team in the league. We had no answer for them in the zone or man defense. They had no answer for us on offense either. We were 56% FG and 47% 3FG. They were 50% FG and 46% 3FG for the game. Not a whole lot of defense being played.
We battle evenly through the last few minutes of the game. I thought we landed the last few blows with under a minute left but they made some huge plays down the stretch with us making some mistakes on our end. They hit a buzzer shot to send the game into overtime.
Overtime was a bit of the same with us making some big shots and then they responded. We got a great look at the end of the game which I thought was a foul, but just like coaches and players, referees are human too.
After the game was very disappointing to me, being an alumnus of this league. My team was not protected at all going to the locker room and things got very ugly with us being ambushed and sprayed with mase. Livingstone College was not prepared for such a game and crowd.
I salute the RAMILY again for traveling to support us in Salisbury! Our fans were loud, engaged, and supportive. I only hope none of them got hurt at the end. We push off to Baltimore today in our quest to defend our title. Thanks again for the support ALL SEASON LONG! GoRams! - Coach Cleo Hill Jr
Johnson C. Smith University - 60
Winston-Salem State University - 69
First, it was a great win against one of the conference's legends, Coach Steven Joyner. He has been the ambassador of our league for a long time with multiple CIAA Championships, multiple NCAA playoff appearances, a host of league MVPs, and turned out some great coaches on his coaching tree. Joyner is top-notch and first-class in our sport.
Before the game I was surprised to be honored by my players, coaching staff, support staff, the entire Gaines Center crowd, and last but not least my family. (son Michael, daughter Sage, and my wife Regina). They honored me with a very nice plaque filled with photos throughout my career, a ball with 200 wins, and the date on which it was reached. It is great to be recognized in any kind of arena. This is the first time in my coaching career that I have been recognized for the number of wins milestone. I would like to thank all my former employers, players, coaches, support staff, and managers. These wins are so hard to come by going against so many good coaches and players. Most of all I would like to thank my family, my mom Ann Hill, my late father Cleo Hill Sr., and last but again not least, my wife who puts up with so much during a season for so many years. My kids Sage, Michael, and Ciara also put up with so many mood swings after losses and everything else that comes along with the highs and lows of living with a basketball coach.
With this win over Johnson C. Smith, we clinched the CIAA Southern Division outright! This is such an honor for my players, coaches, the alumni, campus, and community in only our 3rd season. We will look to build on these accomplishments in Baltimore and the coming years! - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Fayetteville State University - 64
Winston-Salem State University - 65
To describe a game or the atmosphere in the C.E. Gaines Center, I would have to go back and see how many times I have used the words instant classic, epic, or unbelievable. Last night vs. FSU was all three words in one sentence. I have grown accustomed to the RAMS/Broncos. It has been a healthy one now that Coach D'Alessio is at the helm. Coach won the tournament in early 2000 and also spent time at the Division I level. His teams are always prepared and I felt it from the tip-off. However, your RAMS were prepared also.
We have been having slow starts all season. Again, like a seasoned Floyd Mayweather, my team collected data and adjust to an early flurry. We ended the half on a nice run to only be down by 2-points at the half. Our defense began to dig in towards the later part of the 1st half which allowed us to play more in transition. The Broncos shot 28% from the field, but they got most of their points off offensive rebounds. That was one of the topics on the board at halftime. We needed to adjust.
I thought both teams made adjustments, but we found ourselves not handling the ball screen offense very effectively. The 2nd half was a nip and tuck half. I admired my team's fight. It was beautiful to see.
Samage Teel got into a nice rhythm throughout the game as well as CIAA MVP candidate Javonte Cooke. I was very impressed with transfer Rasheen Merlin who is quietly emerging.
Like always down the stretch of these home games the energy of the C.E. Gaines Center began to make their presents felt in the last 5 min of the game. It was a beautiful sight to see and hear. It was right on time.
The chemistry of my staff and I cannot be discounted, we are in lockstep with adjustments, personnel, and strategy. Even on the last play of the game... which has gone viral, I understand, we knew what we wanted. It was just a great team, campus, and community win. I wish I could thank every individual Ram and Ram supporter for the voice and energy last night. It made a difference. We will need you one more time vs. the legend Steve Joyner and the JC Smiths Golden Bulldogs. This game can potentially be for the southern division crown...played in The C.E. Gaines Center! Please come out and support us. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 82
Claflin University - 76
Both teams know each other well. So the first half was an in-depth feeling-out process. They wanted to know what we were going to do differently, and we wanted to know what they were going to do differently. Earlier this season, Claflin started hot on offense. They are a team of offensive runs. Being sure they didn't catch fire was a major priority. In the first half, there were many lead changes and tie scores before heading into the locker room. At the half, we were up by seven.
We started strong offensively in the 2nd half. A 22-8 run built our lead to 21-points. Javonte Cooke scored 26-points in the game, tallying 9-12 from the field, 2-3 from three-point land, and 6-8 from the free-throw line.
Cameron Campbell and Issac Parson contributed a great deal offensively, hitting 5-8 from the field and 4-4 at the free-throw line for 15 points each. Shamon Jackson hit 4-6 and finished with 8-points. John Hicklin led with nine rebounds and four assists.
Coach Ricky Jackson, a former assistant coach of mine knows how to end a game strong. In the late portion of the game, his team was focused and determined. We held an 18-point lead with less than 4-minutes to play. Some coaches don't have a deep enough playbook or an end-game strategy to chip away from such a deficit. Chip away they did. But, we also have a deep game plan to finish games, and that is what we did, leading us to a 6-point, much-needed win on the road.
We return to the C.E. Gaines Center on Saturday. This is a key game that will go down to the wire. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT. I believe our home-court advantage is the best in all of college basketball. So let us show Fayetteville why our fans, student body, and supports are the best. WELCOME TO BLACKOUT SATURDAY. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
St. Augustine's University - 56
Winston-Salem State University - 65 OT
I will take it! Another close game that was not pretty. As a coach, I am always searching for the perfect game, a great percentage from the free-throw line, from the floor, and in three-point range. On the defensive end, I want to hold the opponent's percentage low in those areas. Executing the offensive and defensive game plans to be as close to perfect as possible.
We found a way to grind out another win. It is so hard to win in this league. All the players are so athletic and play extremely hard. Teams also come equipped with great game plans. The coaches in this league are always prepared. Sometimes it is just a grind and gut check.
Again we had great production from our graduate seniors: Cameron Campbell, Javonte Cooke, and Alex Reed. In addition to those 3, CIAA Champion, Xavier Fennell provided a huge spark on defense and rebounding. Freshman guard Samage Teel showed flashes of why he can be one of the best first-year players in our league. I also thought our post play was solid with Rasheen Merlin, Dyquavis Wilkins, and Alex Reed. We found a way.
If there is a concern moving forward in February, it would be our offensive execution. We are going into tournament play and must be able to execute early in the game, early in the 2nd half, and the last 3-5 minutes of the game. We MUST improve on that aspect, along with free throws. Defensively, we have gotten better in our zone defense but we will need to use more than just one.
The unsung heroes are the students, alumni, and community that bring the energy to every game, especially late when it is most needed. We thank you all again! My assistant coaches continue to grind away scouting these teams to the letter while at the same time providing some interesting recruiting options for next year. Thanks again for the support. #GoRams! - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Bowie State University - 62
Winston-Salem State University - 69 OT
Senior leadership and championship experience paid dividends last night. Coach Brooks is the latest to enter C.E. Gaines Center winning multiple CIAA Championships and the Coach of the Year award in our league. His team was extremely prepared last night, especially on the defensive end.
The Bulldogs held us to 25 points in the first half. But, we held the Bulldogs to 23 points in the first half. We had a short second-half spurt, but Bowie answered. Both teams battle through regulation to a standstill with overtime needed. I thought the freshman Isaac Parsons played well through the 2nd half and overtime. He is coming into his own, scoring 15 points while going 7 for 7 from the charity stripe.
We had two graduate seniors that missed the last two games only to come back to make the difference in this basketball game. Cameron Campbell and Alex Reed were HUGE! Cameron played great throughout the entire game and kept us afloat thought out the game scoring 13point and perfect from the 3pt line and free-throw line. Reed did his damage late in regulation and full 5 minutes of overtime playing superb defense on much taller/bigger players, while still scoring 7 points and adding 5 rebounds. Both players have played college basketball for at least three years. Reed played his 3 years and Citadel University (division 1) and Campbell at Lincoln University of the CIAA.
In addition to these student/athletes' experiences, we had the heart of two champions throughout the game and overtime. 2020 CIAA Champions Jonathan Hicklin and Xavier Fennell were tremendous throughout the game and OT. 10 pts, 6 rebounds, adding 2 blocks, and Hicklin 12 points and 8 rebounds! They both had their handprints all over this win.
Championship pedigree spilled into this dog fight in the Gaines Center. I have always felt teams at this level are only as good as their senior leadership, and tonight it was evident! The free-throw line was at least friendly last night, and we outrebounded Bowie 32-18. We are making some strides but need to keep improving in a hurry.
We thank everyone for coming to support us. It means a lot. We play this Saturday vs. St Augustine University in the Gaines Center! Coach - Cleo Hill Jr.
Livingstone College - 70
Winston-Salem State University - 76
The Lady Rams started the evening with a great win! My guys started slow, once again. Livingstone College's Coach Stinson is yet another multiple CIAA tournament champion and a former Coach of the Year. His team came out tough, intense, and prepared. In the past, I referenced Floyd Mayweather and collected data on a team in the first portion of the game. Last night, it took a whole half to figure out the best way to attack Livingston College. Livingstone led at the half (41-33).
Instead of attacking, we decided to counter. We made some adjustments defensively and we took off from there. With Javonte Cooke and Jon Hicklin leading the way, we were able to cause bad shots and turnovers which let us get out in transition with some savvy play from Samage Teel and some super high flying play from "X Man" Xavier Fennell.
As we finished the comeback with a steal and basket by Teel, we then needed some calmness. Our freshman floor general, Isaac Parson controlled the tempo and scored or assisted as the Blue Bears tried to mount a comeback of their own.
I saw my team continue to grow last night. We have guys that are becoming stars in their roles right now and it is beautiful to see. With so many great plays on both ends of the court, maybe the MVP of the night was our very own student body and community! The C.E. Gaines Center was shaking as we mounted our comeback and extended the lead. In a packed building, the energy was nothing short of electric! The energy gave our team life. If someone from out of the country came to visit, wondering what sights to see, I would recommend visiting the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and a Winston-Salem State University basketball game. Our crowd is that intense and a nightmare for opposing teams!
My staff and team are so lucky to have a student body, alumni base, and community that supports us. Please show up tomorrow vs. Bowie State. The Women's game starts at 5:30 pm and the Men's at 7:30 pm. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 80
Johnson C. Smith University - 79 OT
Anyone who knows about the CIAA will tell you Brayboy Gym is a monster to play in! Coach Steve Joyner is one of the last legends of our league! Coach Joyner is an outstanding coach and an even better man/mentor. He has one of the greatest HBCU basketball families. His teams are always prepared and it was no different last night, in Charlotte. The game was intense from the very start!
Smith allowed fans in the gym for the first time in months. They jumped out to a quick 23-9 early in the first half. Like always, my team gathered data in those first 10 minutes, like Floyd Mayweather in his prime. We soon adjusted, made a few moves, and we were back in the game within minutes!
Late first half we were led by a flamethrower, Javonte Cooke. Javonte hit shots from deep and high-flying dunks to bring us back. We could not have come back without some stellar defense, rebounding, and unselfish play. We led at halftime by 2.
The hot hand in the second half started with deep ball shooting from Samage Teel. He hit consecutive threes from every angle of the court. Issac Parsons also steadied the pace. Although we could not miss a shot, the bulldogs matched our point production. The game went back and forth until the end of regulation.
We got major minutes and production from reserves Rasheen Merlin and Dyquavis Wilkins. In late-game regulation, Jonathan Hicklin and Javonte Cooke led the charge but a missed three-pointer took us into OT!
From there it was about who wanted it more and who could come together as a team in the last five minutes. I thought we grew up during this game. I don’t remember any of my WSSU teams that compiled 18 assists. It was beautiful to see. Especially overcoming some pregame drama, I thought the guys matured.
We will be looking to reclaim the top spot in the division on Saturday vs. Livingston College. Please come out and support us! A special thanks to Don Cureton and the Charlotte Alumni Chapter for providing meals after the game. The support is real at home and everywhere we go. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 54
Fayetteville State University - 66
Coach D'Alessio is another former CIAA Champion, formerly at Bowie State. His Broncos were very prepared for our first battle since the 2020 CIAA tournament.
We jumped out early, only to see the Broncos recover the lead for most of the 1st half. We do a good job at collecting data in the first 10 minutes of a game. Once we adjusted to their personnel, playing style, and tempo, we came roaring back to take the lead by 3 at the half. For the most part, in the last 10 minutes of the 1st half, we played well and stayed true to the scouting report, especially on their best players.
In the 2nd half, we did not stay true to the scouting report at all. This is uncharacteristic of this team, especially defensively. We gambled for steals and let their best players get a rhythm.
On offense, I thought our shot selection was poor and our offense stayed unbalanced on both sides of the court. Facial expressions lead me to believe internally we were overconfident. This is the first time in a few games we had massive breakdowns on the defensive end.
We out-rebounded the Broncos by two, but we gave up 12 offensive rebounds. We continue to have our issues at the free-throw line, which is something I have to find an answer to sooner rather than later. Having a five-game winning streak has its PROS and CONS but I believe this is a good thing for our team. The same thing happens in our 2019-20 year of having a streak snapped on the road due to being overconfident. I am assuming I will have their attention during the next practice and the next game. We will need it up at Brayboy, in Charlotte. Again, thank you all for the support. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Claflin University - 48
Winston-Salem State University - 66
We are trying to stay undefeated in 2022. In a packed C.E. Center, the Ramily supported both the women's and men's basketball programs.
After the women's impressive win, the men came out slow. Let's credit Claflin's coach Ricky Jackson. My former assistant coach at Shaw Univ. had them super prepared. Claflin came out on fire, hitting shots from all over the court. They ran their offense to perfection early on. Midway through the first half, I thought we adjusted to their style of play. We settled in offensively, especially in transition. I thought playing faster would be to our benefit with Claflin pressing and trappy as they did.
The second half was back and forth, but we imposed our will on the defensive glass. We outrebounded Claflin 35 -24. I was impressed with Jonathan Hicklin all night! "Hick" was a monster on the boards with 10 and it appeared to be more than that. Cameron Campbell ( Preseason ALL CIAA) was great as well 13 pts, 3 rebs, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
Before this game, we jumped to the #1 defensive team in the CIAA. This is a goal my team and staff desperately wanted. When playing St. Augustine, I thought we had the best defensive first half that I coached in years, giving up only 20 points. In the 2nd half versus Claflin, we also held their offense to 20 points. The team is buying into the philosophy that my staff and I have put together. If we can only master the free-throw line. That stripe stands between us and a Division Championship, a Conference Championship, and possibly a NATIONAL. We are being as creative as possible. Thank you to all that came and supported the Gaines Center. Special gratitude to the Red and White Cheer Team and coach Washington. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 61
St. Augustine's University - 58
Competing against teams in the division is always tough. Especially when we are facing a well-coached team led by Coach Marqus Johnson and the conference's leading scorer, Dhashon Dyson.
Our players didn't just do a good job on the defensive end, during the first half of the game. I would say the team did a great job n the defensive end. The half saw our defense hold the Falcons to 20 points and the conference's leading scorer to 4 points. We produced the best 20 minutes of defense I've seen in years. The guys followed the scouting report to the letter.
The start of the 2nd half showed more great defense and an even better offense. PG Isaac Parson led the way on offense. A stellar individual defensive effort by our locksmith, Xavier Fennell was great again, as we went up by 18.
The tide soon turned as we made some substitutions and let Dyson get free for a basket... then a foul... and then a deep three-pointer. In this league, if you let a true scorer get going, it becomes a long day. We tried everything in the book to cool off Dyson but at that point, it was too late.
In the last 5 minutes of the game, it was our offense that led us to the win with some HOT HOT shooting from Cameron Campbell (Preseason ALL CIAA) and the return of our sniper, Javonte Cooke. Both players hit 3-pointers after 3-pointers to keep us ahead.
I think it was a great learning experience for our team with so many new players to the program and the conference. They now know every game will be a dog fight regardless of the record and regardless of what players are in or out of the lineup. I was proud that we pulled out a win where we did bend a lot, but we did not break on the road. Wins are hard to come by in the CIAA away from home. We are back in Gaines on the 19th. We welcome support from the campus and community. Go Rams! - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 56
Elizabeth City State University - 54
My first game back of the New Year! Congratulations to my talented assistant coaches who led the program to two impressive wins versus two former CIAA Championship and former Coach of the Year Award winners.
So, of course, for my first game of the New Year, we faced another CIAA champion and former Coach of the Year Award winner, Coach Shawn Walker. Coach Walker is a very accomplished coach and a respected leader of Elizabeth City State. I knew it would be a close game.
We still had five players out dealing with injuries and COVID-19 protocol. We started very slow, while ECSU started on fire. I knew our defense would settle in. We hit a good stride in the middle of the first half.
We add a new element with Jonathan Hicklin embracing the center position. Hicklin is strong, athletic, and crafty. Pre-season ALL CIAA, Cameron Campbell is hitting his stride. He is shooting the ball and rebounding very well. Our freshman, Samage Teel, has continued to flourish, coming off the bench distributing, and scoring. But, the excitement we received from redshirt freshman Issac Parson's game-winner is something we will never forget.
For the first time this season, we impose our will on the boards with a 46-30 advantage and 18 offensive rebounds! The free-throw line continues to be an area we MUST improve in. We shot free throws much better at home during the three-game stretch. TEAM TEAM TEAM!
It is challenging to teach young men to focus on what is good for the team. I spent time starting and coming off of the bench in college, and I know it can be an emotional situation, especially with the peer pressure on an HBCU campus. My staff and I will continue to groom these young men and share how their experience at WSSU and being a student/athlete will mirror life once they leave. We play @ St Augustine College this Saturday. Your support is truly appreciated. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Shaw University - 66
Winston-Salem State University - 81
Shaw University's Coach, Bobby Collins is a former CIAA Champion and does a great job with his team. The game was close early, but I saw the confidence of the guys growing. We shot the ball extremely well from the floor, free-throw line, and 3-point line! The coaches had them shooting a lot of free throws upon returning from the Christmas break. With a stat line of 54.7% FG,47% 3pt, and 83% FT, you are going to win a lot of games. The backcourt of Parson and Campbell played VERY well, scoring 42 points (21 each). Again, off the bench, Freshman Teel added 20 points. John Hicklin led us with 12 rebounds and led us with 5 assists.
All in all, I am extremely proud of my staff, players, and support staff. They did not miss a beat in any aspect of preparation. I feel good that I am preparing all in my program for their next steps, whatever that may be.
In the end, it is about grooming young men and future professionals. Special thanks to the soldiers that made it out to C.E. Gaines. I know this is a stressful time and the protocol to get into games is very stringent. But the department/university has a goal to keep everyone as safe as possible. Thanks again for your support!! - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Virginia State University - 88
Winston-Salem State University - 90 OT
I did not watch the game live vs. VA State. I watched it the following day on Synergy. I could tell it was hard-fought. I thought we played very well in transition at times. In addition to me being out, we had 5 other players out (3 starters) for various reasons. Coach Lonnie Blow Jr. is a championship coach and a great guy. I thought my staff made good adjustments, especially as the Trojans made a comeback to take the lead.
Hicklin and Fennell, my championship players showed leadership throughout. The story was My freshman Parson, Teel, and Diop. The trio scored 41 points, 30 points coming off the bench. I knew the small but loud 100 Ramily in attendance would get them over the hump in overtime! - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 2
Bowie State University - 0 (NCAA forfeit scoring)
Bowie State men's basketball game against Winston-Salem State University, scheduled for Monday, December 20, is declared a forfeit due to COVID-19 protocols. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 60
Lincoln University - 63
Corey Lowery is doing a great job in his first full year as head coach. His team was well prepared.
I thought the game pace was great for us. We did well in transition offense and defense early. The game was physical and intense. We did much better in one of our weaker areas of free-throw shooting, going 10-13 and the rebounding was 36-38. But we also gave up 16 offensive rebounds. You will almost never win a game giving up that many offensive rebounds.
There was a lot of chirping during the game which is nothing new in our league. However, you cannot let the chirping get you out of executing. There lies my biggest issue with the game. Our execution in a variety of areas was just not there. Execution is definitely something that must be cleaned up. Whether it was our baseline out-of-bounds plays or ball screen defense, the execution was late or not there at all. We will focus on those areas during the court walkthroughs, film studies, and our chalk talks.
After getting down by double digits late, we did come storming back to bring the game within one point with under 30 secs left. From our scouting report, we had the requested opponent at the free-throw line. But, we did not box out to get the rebound. Giving up that last offensive rebound was the difference in the game's outcome.
After the loss, the teams got a little too engaged in the handshake line and there was some pushing and shoving. There were no punches thrown. But, I did reiterate to our team how we conducted ourselves. I made sure to apologize to the Lincoln University AD. I also apologize to the Lincoln fans and WSSU fans that attended the game.
It was a great game and very exciting to see. I just wish the ending was better. We will come back on the 1st of the year and work! Javonte Cooke led us with 22 pts and Cameron Campbell had 15 points in his return back to Lincoln University, where he transferred from. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 51
Virginia Union University - 62
Our Virginia Union rematch was what I thought it would be, a defensive battle. The Panthers continue to be famous for their 2-3 circle zone and have been for years. Coach Butler does a great job of emphasizing the effort on the defensive end.
Two of our Achilles heels bit us again, rebounding and free throws. Two of the most basic elements of sports continue to hurt us. We had some success against the zone in spurts, but it was not enough to overcome a 21-43 rebounding edge, including 12 offensive rebounds for Union. Our free throw shoot found us at 8-17 from the line.
We work hard on both areas daily, but we will now have to double the work in both areas. The physical nature of the Panthers was good for our team of 11 new players to feel. Also, the intensity was great.
I have no doubt that we will adjust. We will continue to get better. Javonte Cooke led us with 15 points and Freshman Isaac Parson came off the bench with 12 pts. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 76
Morris College - 71 OT
The non-conference portion of the season has ended with the most exciting game so far. On Wednesday, we battled an inspired Morris College, in South Carolina. It was our first overtime game of the season. After shooting 1-16 from deep, and 15-31 from the free-throw line, most coaches would be depressed with the shooting accuracy. Although I am not happy with those numbers, I am proud that I found out how physically and mentally tough this team can be.
We found a way to win a tough overtime game on the road. Outside of learning that my team has some heart, I saw so many things that we can improve on. Our depth will be a key factor all season. We have some time to clean up a few things and continue building team chemistry. All things considered for non-conference play, I give this team a B-. Conference play starts on the road with our up north swing of VA Union, Bowie, and Lincoln.
I will reach out to the alumni in those areas shortly. Thank you all for the support! #GoRams - Coach Cleo Hill Jr
Clinton College - 62
Winston-Salem State University - 100
As the month comes to a close, I'd say it was a good November for our basketball program. Last night, we battled high-scoring Clinton College. The emphasis was on fundamentals and effort on the defensive end. Our 2019-20 CIAA Championship team went into tournament play (canceled for Covid-19) as the #5 defensive team in the country, at the Division II level. This team can be as good defensively as that team. We have specific mandatory rules, or you will sub out of the game. We held Clinton College to 21 points in the 1st half.
On the offensive end, we have a lot of work to do. Even though we scored 100 points, I was not pleased with the execution. The elephants that occupy the offensive planning room are chemistry and discipline. The brand of basketball I am desiring is not displayed, at the moment, but it will. Teaching young athletes to think of TEAM first is not an easy feat.
I am happy with the win. Wins can be so hard to come by early in the season. Although The Gaines Center was not as packed, due to the holidays, the community of Winston-Salem did come out very strong.
I thank you all for coming this Thanksgiving weekend. I know it can be challenging to get in when the students are in attendance. The support for the Rams is growing and growing. We will get out more in the community. Covid has been such a challenge but again, thank you for the support! #GoRams - Cleo Hill Jr
Chris Paul's Hall of Fame Classic
It was a great five-day stay in Connecticut. Chris Paul, The Naismith Hall of Fame, and Boost Mobile were perfect hosts for all four invitees; West Virginia State, Morehouse College, Virginia Union, and Winston-Salem State University. We all toured The Basketball Hall of Fame as soon as we arrived. Personally, it took me down memory lane to see some of my mentors highlighted as well as people who gave me advice about basketball and life. Coach Clarence Gaines, Earl Monroe, John Chaney, Al Attles, Sam Jones, Lenny Wilkins, Paul Silas, and a few others. It was a special moment.
The Mohegan Sun Hotel was unbelievable. The layout was second to none with so many restaurants. It was so huge that an actual arena was inside. The rooms were exceptional and the food was even better. We had buffet-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The service and hospitality by the staff rivaled all the sights and attractions. Practice and shootarounds went well also.
I can tell that the players were excited and felt like the trip would be a memorable experience. The banquet was also very nice. All four teams attended and all head coaches spoke a few words. All of the coaches spoke about the phone call received to enter the classic as well as the great experience this is to share with family and friends for years to come.
Enjoy the behind the scene photos:
Virginia Union University - 59
Winston-Salem State University - 55
CHRIS PAUL'S HOF CLASSIC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
This was good for our team but yet ghastly for me. It was good with so many new players on the team to see what a CIAA match-up looks like, even if it's a little earlier than normal. It was ghastly for me because I felt like a win or loss would do us some good. We have been winning games but not in the fashion I would like. A championship win could swing us in either direction, up or down.
I know the Union staff well. They have a storied program just like we do. Winning multiple CIAA Tournament Championships and both Universities have a National Championship (VA. Union with multiple).
The game was very physical and defense was at a premium. We will always be one of the top defensive teams in Division II. We play a tough man defense, and Union plays a tough zone. Both teams battled throughout the 1st half, but I thought we did a poor job of closing the half. We had some poor offensive possessions, turnovers, and petty fouls while in the bonus.
It was nip and tuck in the 2nd half. But, they imposed their will with their strength of offensive rebounding. The scouting report was centered around us rebounding on the defensive end, and we came up short in that area giving up 17 offensive rebounds.
As a new team with 11 new players, they must understand that the coaches watch hours of film and crunch all the numbers to create a game plan. But, that game plan must be followed.
Congratulations to VA. Union Coaches and players for winning the championship. I hate to lose any game, let alone a championship game of any kind. But, this will prove to be a good loss, if that is ever a thing. As a staff, we feel like our young men will learn from this. We will prepare better for the next game, November 27 at 4 pm vs. high-scoring Clinton College. Please come out and support!
SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING:
The Paul Family
The Basketball Hall of Fame
The Mohegan Sun Hotel
Monica Mcnutt (My favorite RSPN analyst)
The WSSU shuttle/security services
The Public Relations Crew (Garrett and Hailey)
Winston-Salem University Film Crew
Chancellor Robinson and Mrs. Robinson
AD Thomas and her family
Associate AD Sonya Hurt
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images (Chris Paul image)
WSSU Alumni from NJ, NY, PA, and CT
and CoachWilson and Beckwith
Morehouse College - 45
Winston-Salem State University - 58
CHRIS PAUL'S HOF CLASSIC SEMI-FINALS
This was our first contest of the season vs another HBCU. It was very interesting to me to see the comfort level or lack thereof.
It was nip and tuck for the entire game. Both teams did not adjust to the depth perception in the gym. The background for 3 pt shots was a factor. We shot the long ball at a rate of 4-18 and they were 2-11. In addition to the poor shooting, things did not get better from the free-throw line.
Morehouse's interior offense was a strength for them. In the 1st half, they dominated to keep the game close. In the 2nd half, I thought our perimeter play gave us the edge. We have a lot of depth with this team and we are hoping that it can pay dividends throughout the season. We escaped with a 58-45 win.
Carolina University - 47
Winston-Salem State University - 63
It was another great team win, Friday night. The WSSU campus and community came out in full effect. The atmosphere was more than electric. Dr. Michael Magruder and The Red Sea of Sound represented as they always do.
We welcomed Coach Washington with her first basketball game back as the head cheer coach, and the Red team turned up. The Dance Team was also represented very well in C.E. Gaines Center. A home game wouldn't be complete without the DJ keeping us rolling. The only thing needed was a great performance from the team.
I felt like the guys were nervous to start the game. We had multiple players in their first home game. But, the atmosphere was one of the reasons they chose this great university. We also had four players out due to injury. Once we settled down, you could see where the pieces could come together.
Jaylin Parker steadied the ship with leadership three-point shooting. Xavier Fennell is continuing his campaign for Division II Defensive POY. Jon Hicklin continues to stuff the stat sheets with points, rebounds, and assists. Impressive newcomers were 6'6 guard Javonte Cooke and 6'4 guard Cameron Campbel. Both guys showed they can score and shoot the basketball. They will be great additions to what we do on both sides of the ball. The Gaines Center got a chance to see some solid wing play and an emerging post player, Cyrille Diop. The big man from France showed his versatility in the post and his ability to rebound the basketball.
This Carolina University team (formerly Piedmont International) did a great job. One of their well-rounded teams inside and out. We would love to keep the inner city game going.
As for our team overall, we have much to clean up on both sides of the ball. But, we are improving every day. Both the coaches and players are working hard. Coach Wilson did another superb job with the scouting report. The report was detailed and well prepared.
The team and staff will travel to Connecticut for the Chris Paul Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. We will be back in the Gaines Center on November 27 at 4 pm. Happy Thanksgiving. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr
Winston-Salem State University - 75
Clark Atlanta - 65
Last night was a good night in Atlanta versus Clark Atlanta. Our team and staff were well prepared. Coach Beckwith delivered yet another detailed scouting report. We felt very comfortable with their personnel. Both teams seemed very tight early, but our effort showed at both ends of the court. Once we settled down we were fine, especially after a few substitutions.
John Hicklin played very steady throughout the game and led us down the stretch in scoring, playmaking, and rebounding. The bench was very impressive, led by the energy and defense of 2020 CIAA Champion Xavier "PadLock" Fennell. Also, CIAA Champions Jaylin Parker and Shamon Jackson were huge off the bench.
I can see the pieces attempting to come together. This was another great team win against a quality SIAC opponent. As the leadership continues to improve so will the play. Defense and rebounds win games. That is the message to the team from me and the staff. In addition to the defense and rebounding, the off-the-court maturity and decision-making lay a part in playing time or lack thereof.
A round of applause to the WSSU/ATLANTA alumni chapter! They showed UP and they showed OUT! They came into that gym RAM-RED STRONG! They were bright and loud! It was such a momentum boost for our guys during key moments. They coordinated our dinner at the hotel our first night there. It was great fellowship and the food was second to none.
After cheering us on to victory, they had box dinners and drinks ready to grab for the road. Directly after the game, ALL of the RED was in the lobby waiting to greet us and congratulate us. So much love and so many photos and smiles. We felt the energy and the love.
ATL, thank you so much for your hospitality. We will be back for more wins and love! Special thanks to Murdock Williams, Mrs. Velma Johnson, and ATL Alumni President Mrs. Marilyn Cruter! Don't forget to come back to C.E. Gaines on Friday @ 7 pm. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
Winston-Salem State University - 66
Wheeling Jesuit University - 65
Wheeling is another NCAA Division II foe I have faced with more success. Defeating them in the NCAA Tournament in 2012, I moved on to the regional final. I felt like we were more locked in for this game. All 11 new players finally realized that this Division II level is REAL!
The scouting report was great (as it was for West Liberty). Both of my coaches do a great job in giving details in the delivery. The game was tight the entire way. We made mistakes, but I felt like the guys were on the same page on execution. We have emerging post players. Keep an eye on Cyrile Diop, Shamon Jackson, and Rasheen Merlin this season. The offensive and defensive movements of Diop and Jackson were great.
Isaac Parson was steady running the point with 7points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds. Javonte Cooke was also Huge coming off the bench with 17 points (7-12 FG) (3-6 3pt), 4 rebounds, and the game-winning go-ahead basket. John Hicklin led us 18 points (7-11 FG), 5 rebs and (4-5 FT). I thought Hicklin was the overall best player in the classic! If he continues down this path, he would be a player to watch in the CIAA POY race. Wheeling 65 WSSU 66. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.
West Liberty State -104
Winston-Salem State University - 82
It is official, the start of the 2021-2022 NCAA Basketball season. Our pre-season was educational, especially having our D1 ACC and Big South tour. We decided to enter into one of the most difficult regional classics in D2 hosted by powerhouse West Liberty (#14 in the nation).
It's nearly ten years since I had been in their gym. I coached against them in the NCAA Regionals while at Shaw University two straight years from 2010-11 and 2011-12. Both years We came up just short in two close battles.
This year we entered with a young team and almost a complete rebuild. It was a tale of two halves. Our preparation was all about handling their press. How to break it and what to do when we broke it. We didn't do either very well. I felt like we were nervous. We did a poor job at executing the press offense. We didn't get to our spots due to strength and lack of footwork. We were down by 17 at the half. In the 2nd half, we started better. But, fell to poor execution on the press offense. We got down by as many as 27 points.
I was proud of our guys for their grit! We managed to make a run like I thought we would. With just under 5 minutes to go, the scoreboard said we were down by only 11.
We need to get good shots in each possession. But, we are talking about 11 new players and only 1 of the 4 players from the championship team with any significant minutes. Xavier Fennell did not make the trip due to injury. With no experience, we fell prey to a 0-15 run. That run broke the game open. Although it was a tough loss, it prepared us for game two. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.