North Carolina Central is the first team to win three straight MEAC Tournament Championships in more than 35 years.
Don’t let coach LeVelle Moton hear that, though.
“My wife asked me, ‘Why are all your trophies still in storage?’” the NC Central coach said. “All my trophies going back to when I was a kid. I’ve been paying storage fees for six years. It’s hard for me to focus on the yesterday. Life is not meant to be lived by looking back. If you’re driving and you look over your shoulder, you’re gonna crash. I don’t want to crash.”
And he certainly isn’t going to let his Eagles crash.
His priority for the early season?
“Eliminate and disregard the sense of entitlement you may have right now because you haven’t won anything collectively as a group,” he said. “Don’t go out here and try to enjoy the fruits of the labor that was performed by your predecessors. The reality is, walking around this campus, they’re getting lots of attention that they probably don’t necessarily deserve because they wasn’t part of last year or the previous year or the previous year. But now they put on a sweatshirt that says North Carolina Central Basketball, and the new girls on campus can’t tell the difference.”
Three players who were part of last season’s championship team that took a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament were honored on the preseason All-MEAC Team.
Senior guard Randy Miller was the second-leading scorer last year at 13.3 points per game. Senior forward Jibri Blount averaged 10.1 points, and junior guard Jordan Perkins was sixth in the league with 4.3 assists.
Central was chosen to win the league, which is the last thing Moton wants to hear.
“I humble them real quick,” he said. “Come to one practice and they’re humbled, I promise you that. They’re not leaving there feeling like champions. These kids today, bless ’em, man. This day and age, with social media, you can develop false illusions about yourself.”
Luckily, the Eagles have a grumpy coach willing to spoil those illusions with a 30-year-old movie.
“I used the analogy of Rocky III,” he said. “Rocky was this guy who was struggling to get on his feet. He just wanted a shot at the heavyweight championship of the world. He was running through the Philly streets and hitting ribs. Then he won the title and got content.
“I just remember he was now trying to fight Clubber Lang, who was played by Mr. T. They kept going in and out of clips where Clubber Lang was training in a dark basement and just getting it in. While Rocky was training with a silk jacket on now, with pianos playing and beautiful girls around him. He’d jump rope and then stop and sign autographs, give a kiss, and it was driving his manager crazy. Then he went and got his head knocked off. Then he had to go back to reality.”
Moton’s job is to make sure reality doesn’t bite his squad.
“Let’s not be Rocky Balboa in number three,” he said. “Let’s have the same grind and mentality we’ve always had.”