2021-2022 AFTER GAME THOUGHTS

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 during 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:

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 longball 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.

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:

 

  • Chris Paul

  • The Paul Family

  • The Basketball Hall of Fame

  • Boost Mobile

  • The Mohegan Sun Hotel 

  • ESPN

  • Tiffany Green 

  • 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
     

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.