Championship or Bust for North Carolina Central

North Carolina Central coach Levelle Moton said his team has exceeded his expectations. (NCAA photo)

North Carolina Central has taken several steps forward as a program this year, including exceeding where head coach Levelle Moton thought they would be.

“I don’t think anyone saw 25-5, especially when you play six or seven guaranteed games to kind of put you in a hole,” Moton said on Tuesday. “Through hard work, faith and sacrifice it happens.”

Those ingredients have NCCU entering the MEAC Tournament as the clear favorite to win it all and represent the conference in the Big Dance. Moton knows that along with those lofty expectations comes a big target on his team’s back. But he says that’s nothing new.

“I just tell my guys embrace it,” he said. “We’ve been getting everyone’s best shot for the last two years. It’s just going to be three more games of getting everyone’s best shot.”

NCCU enters the 2014 tournament with its second-straight 20 win season. Moton said this team is much more mature than the one that fell to arch-rival and eventual champion NC A&T in the quarterfinals last year. He says this team has a hunger that probably wasn’t there last year.

“They aren’t content. They aren’t satisfied. If you walk into our practice, you would think these guys are 5-25,” Moton said. “Our goal isn’t to compete. It’s to win.”
Much of that maturity comes from his seniors, specifically the backcourt of Poobie Champan (Third-team All-MEAC) and Jeremy Ingram (MEAC Player of The Year). Moton called the pair staples of his program.
“These are two kids that didn’t have a scholarship offer between the two of them,” Moton said. “It hasn’t been a smooth process. It wasn’t all peaches and cream, but my job was to build them into men through basketball.” 
Many people may be suprised that despite the program’s history (NCCU won the Divsion II title in 1989), the Eagles haven’t won a conference tournament championship since it won the CIAA in 1950 under John McLendon. 
For Moton, that stat is just a stat. 
“We control the controllable. We can’t control what happened the last 60 years,” Moton said. “My kids are 20 years old. All they can control is what is in front of us.”



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