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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...