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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! 

 Click here for more. 


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Career Day

Last Friday, our Athletic Director, Etienne Thomas, the athletic department, and I had fun visiting Quality Education Middle School for their career day. We had loads of fun speaking with the students in a packed auditorium. 

AD Thomas shared what her job responsibilities are as the athletic director. In addition to sharing her responsibilities as AD, she showed slides and video footage of some great moments in Athletics. 

We had staff from our departments speak to the students. We also had some of our student-athletes share their goals and ambitions after college.

I was the last one to be introduced. I was brief, but I enjoyed bringing a few of the students up to the front to display shooting form and defense stance as things I look for with potential student-athletes. In the end, I explained how I recruit student-athletes with A's and B's in HS. 

The day ended with AD Thomas giving good trivia questions for the students. After the trivia, every student got a goodie bag with some great WSSU gifts. It was a great day to spend time with a few future RAMS. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.


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Thank You, Mayor Allen Joines

Earlier this month, Mayor Allen Joines and The City of Winston-Salem honored Winston-Salem State Men's Basketball for the 2020 CIAA Conference Championship. It was an exciting moment for me as the head coach. 

Mayor Joines expressed how he wanted to recognize the team, the staff, and the program much earlier. But, due to Covid-19 taking over the country almost as soon as we won the championship, it made his intentions impossible. 

During the recognition, I was accompanied by our Athletic Director, Etienne Thomas. AD Thomas spoke to the room on behalf of the team, staff, athletic department, and University. Her words were powerful, genuine, and appreciative of the recognition. We were also accompanied by our new Sports Information Director, Airis Thomas. 

I can get used to those kinds of meetings. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.


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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... 

 Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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Day #4 in Baltimore


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...


 Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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Day #2 and #3 in Baltimore

Day #2 and #3 in Baltimore was almost a copy of the first day. We started with breakfast and study hall. Some of our players had tests to take. We had a lighter practice, but the intensity was not compromised. I thought the energy stayed high and they still competed. I could tell they were loose and not tense as the days to competition now become hours. I had a chance to talk to a few of them individually, they seem to understand the importance of the moment. 


My coaching staff is locked in. We went to watch our women play vs Lincoln University, was that a great game. Our ladies played well and hard! Coach L.T. had them locked in and ready for battle. I thought the officials missed a few calls that could have given us a leg up, but we still hung tough. In the end, the ball just didn't bounce our way but the women gave it their all and had a great season. 


After the game, we came back to the hotel and had dinner in the meeting room while watching the games on the big screen. It was great bonding but I did leave the room early for individual preparation. My staff and I now have to trust the preparation and the guys just have to play basketball now. - Coach Cleo Hill Jr. 


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The First Day in Baltimore

Well, we are here!


The first full day in Baltimore. The guys seemed focused for the most part. We have a few guys that are not used to our tournament demeanor. Attention to detail on every level: intensity on everything, not being late to breakfast, late-night study hall, and limited joining. The upperclassmen have done a good job of policing things that my staff and I should not have to. The practice was great! It was very very intense with a few scuffles. All very healthy. They were locked in during the teaching moments as well! The banquet was very nice for the first time in Baltimore. They put on a great evening. The RAMS came away with some awards! Javonte Cooke and Cameron Campbell left with ALL CIAA tournament recognition and Isaac Parson was selected to the ALL Rookie team! The team walked away with the Southern Division Championship! It was a great night, The evening concluded with a 2-hour study hall session to keep the guys up to speed on the things they will miss this entire week, THAT is what the plan is. Like always, thank you all for your support. I was so blessed to receive many congratulations on social media for winning the southern division championship, being awarded a trophy ball for the milestone of 200 wins, and posting a pic side by side with my Idol Cleo Hill Sr. I wish I could thank everybody for the likes and comments. I tried though. Thanks again! GoRams! - Coach Cleo Hill Jr.


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Wild Night in Livingstone

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...

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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A Host of Milestones

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 by the number of wins milestone. I would like to thank all my former employers, players, coaches, support staff, and managers...

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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Instant Classic, Epic, Unbelievable

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...

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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Handling a Late Flurry of Punches

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...

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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Another Close Game

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 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...

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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Leadership and Experience Counts

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... 

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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Greatest Home Court Advantage

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 collecting 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... 

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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An Instant Classic in Charlotte

{Coaches and Charlotte Alumni Chapter Pictured}

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...

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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A Little Too Overconfident

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... 

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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The Streak is Still Alive

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... 

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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Division Play is Always a Dog Fight

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...

Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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RS Freshman Hits Game Winner

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...

  • Click here to see freshman Issac Parson's game-winner

  • Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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The Cleo Hill Award

One of the primary goals of ERACISM is to educate today’s fans on the stars of the past and the HBCU Legends Awards will shine a light on players like Kentucky State’s Travis Grant who is College Basketball’s all-time leading scorer. Thus, the Travis Grant Award will annually honor the top scorer in all levels of college basketball. The Zelmo Beaty Award will highlight the nation’s top shot blocker, the Marques Haynes Award will recognize the leader in steals, the Cleo Hill Award will highlight college basketball’s leader in assists, and the Willis Reed Award will be presented annually to the top rebounder in college basketball. 

  • Click here for more on ERACISM

  • Click here for past Cleo Hill Award winners.


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Two Games Out Due To COVID

From a few different viewpoints, missing the last few games due to the COVID-19 protocol was difficult. However, my program was in great hands.


I've spoken about my assistant coaches, Ricky Wilson and Lance Beckwith, on several occasions. I give them large responsibilities on a day-to-day basis, so it was business as normal for both of them... 


Click here to see more of Coach's "After Game Thoughts." 


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A Legend Called Home

Former North Carolina Central Eagle, Sam Jones, passed away on December 30. 

There is a standard when playing guard at North Carolina Central. That standard is Sam Jones. 

Knowing the history of the NBA, meeting Sam Jones during my freshman year at NCCU was a treat. I've always known him as being both positive and authentic. We kept in contact over the years and, we often spoke when I changed coaching positions. 

A memory that stands out was my senior year in college. Sam called a game on BET with the great Charlie Neal. The game was against my current employer, Winston-Salem State. Coach Gaines was the coach at the time. Charlie and Sam had some good things to say about me during the broadcast. He got a kick out of me shooting a bank-shot during the game (that was the shot he was famous for). Of course, I got the MVP of the game. How could I not? With legends calling the game, Hall of fame coaches coaching against each other, playing in the annex gym, and on BET, I had to show my best.


I remember Mr. Jones made a team visit when I was an assistant coach at Mount Zion Christian Academy. During the visit, Sam spoke with the team and challenged me to a shooting contest. Neither one of us shot the ball well that day. I was more amused by being on the same court with such a basketball ICON! I  lost so much with his passing, a fellow alum, a mentor, and a friend. 

Sam was so excited for me to coach at Winston Salem State University. When I got the job he called and we spoke for some time. He will be missed by all the people that he helped as well as the basketball world. - Cleo Hill Jr.


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