Monday, May 22, 2017

Sports

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
For an extraordinary 14th time, the women of Bethune-Cookman University left Port St. Lucie as victors of the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship presented by CastleOak Securities. The 31st edition of the 54-hole, stroke-play event was contested on PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker and Ryder Courses and featured six divisions.

The Bethune-Cookman women enjoyed their sixth consecutive Women’s Division victory with a three-day total of 889. The Wildcats were led by Mackenzie Butzer (215), whose final round, 1-under-par 71 solidified her position as the division’s medalist, finishing 1-under-par for the Championship and nine strokes ahead of teammate Alejandra Sanchez.

“Today, I had the mentality of playing easy golf,” said Butzer, who finished runner-up in the Women’s Division medalist race last year. “I worked extremely hard all year and my game has come together, finally.”

Not to be outdone by their fellow Wildcats, the men of Bethune-Cookman (875) claimed their fourth Men’s Division I victory in five years with a 16-stroke margin over Incarnate Word (891). Sam Sloman’s steady play and three-day total of 217 earned him the Division I medalist.

New year, same result for the Women’s Individual Invitational. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s Tiana Jones (232) cruised to a five-stroke victory, her fourth consecutive victory at this Championship. Jones will return to UMES in the fall for her final year in the PGA Golf Management University Program.

A pair of playoffs determined the team champion and medalist honors for Men’s Division II. After finishing 54 holes knotted up at 927, Lincoln and the University of West Alabama played two more to determine the champion. West Alabama sealed the victory with a team-combined 2-under-par on the second playoff hole, beating Lincoln by one stroke. West Alabama’s Brannon O’Pry defeated Virginia State’s Samuel Reid in a separate playoff to earn the Men’s Division II medalist.

The PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship presented by CastleOak Securities has elevated golf in minority colleges and universities by providing opportunities for players to compete in a national championship. In 2006, the PGA of America was granted complete ownership and management by the National Minority Collegiate Golf Scholarship Fund.

Fourteeen Division I HBCU teams at eight different schools will be ineligible for the postseason in 2017-18 due to their low Academic Progress Rates.

In 2017-18, teams are subject to penalties for not meeting the minimum academic standard set by member schools. Some of the teams ineligible for postseason play are among those subject to penalties. Schools may request a waiver from some or all penalty elements. Waivers are overseen by the Committee on Academics. The Academic Performance Program penalty structure includes three levels, with penalties increasing in severity at each level. Schools move through the penalty structure each year, progressing to the next level of severity if their multiyear APR remains below the benchmarks.

The specific penalties for each team are listed on the school’s report in the APR searchable database. Level One penalties focus on practice restrictions, which provide additional
time for teams to focus on academics. Teams facing this penalty lose four hours and one day of practice time per week in season, which is intended to be replaced with academic activities. In 2017-18, 16 teams face this level of penalty.

Level Two penalties include the Level One penalty and a reduction of four hours of practice time out of season, which is intended to be replaced with academic activities. At Level Two, the team’s non-championship season, or spring football, is eliminated. Teams without non championship seasons face a reduced number of contests. In 2017-18, 10 teams fall into this category.

Penalty ChartPostseason ineligibility
Alabama A&M: Baseball, M basketball, M golf, W cross country
Grambling: M basketball, M cross country, M track
Howard: M swimming and diving
Morgan State: M cross country
Savannah State: M basketball, football
Southern: M baseball, M cross country, M track, W cross country

Level One Penalties
Alabama A&M: M basketball, football, W basketball, W cross country, W soccer
Florida A&M: W bowling
Grambling: Men’s basketball, M cross country, M track, softball
Morgan State: W basketball, W track
Prairie View A&M: M basketball
Savannah State: Baseball

Level Two Penalties
Alabama A&M: Baseball, M golf
Howard: M swimming and diving
Morgan State: M cross country
Savannah State: M basketball, football
Southern:
baseball, M cross country, M track, W cross country

The prospect of as many as ten former black college standouts finding their way into the 2017 NFL Draft did not materialize last week as only four names went off the boards when the league held its annual 7-round confab last week in Philadelphia.

Somewhat surprisingly, Grambling State wide receiver Chad Williams was the first HBCU product selected as the Arizona Cardinals took him with the 34th pick in Friday’s third round. He was the 98th overall selection.

Diminutive record-setting North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen was next, going early Saturday to the Chicago Bears with the 13th pick of the fourth round and 119th overall.

Later in the same round, Albany State defensive tackle Grover Stewart was taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the 38th pick, 144th overall.

No more HBCU players came off the boards until Alabama State offensive tackle Jylan Ware was selected by the Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Raiders with the 13th pick of the seventh and final round. Ware was the 231st overall selection.

The four selections continues a trend that has not seen HBCU products reach double-digits in the draft since 2000. Another ten HBCU products, many considered draftable, were quickly gobbled up by teams with free agent contracts.

THE PICKS
The selection of Williams (6-1, 204), the top black college receiver last year with 90 receptions for 1,337 yards and 11 TDs for the HBCU national champion Tigers, was not a surprise in the sense that most had projected him to be taken. The surprise was that he went first.

He was suspended for Grambling’s season opener after his arrest for a series of charges last year. The charges were later dropped but the arrest, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall’s recent focus on players’ off-field issues, prevented him from participating in the Combine. And, he was a late addition to the Senior Bowl after turning heads with an outstanding showing at the NFLPA all-star game in California.

But his personal interviews, the 4.43 40-time at his Pro Day and what some considered a dominating performance against Div. I corners at Senior Bowl practices convinced the Cardinals that he was worth the pick.

Cardinals’ officials said after speaking with Williams at Grambling that they believed his arrest was a ‘wrong place, wrong time’ incident.

Williams, who finished his 47-game career at Grambling with 210 receptions for 3,062 yards and 29 TDs, is the type of big-bodied receiver that Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians covets. According to the Arizona website, Arians has been fantastic at identifying impact pass-catchers in the third round, helping nab NFL standouts Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, T.Y. Hilton and John Brown over the past nine years. Williams hopes to be the next one.

“I’m just going to come in and be me, and I know for a fact I can live up to that third-round hype,” Williams said.

Cohen, who finished his A&T career with an MEAC-record 5,619 rushing yards, is seen as a ‘change of pace’ back by the Bears. He had nine touchdowns on runs of over 70 yards in his career and is expected to be used also as a receiver out of the backfield like Philadelphia’s Darren Sproles. Six-foot, 222-pound rookie running back Jordan Howard out of Indiana was the Bears’ feature back in 2016 running for 1,313 yards and six TDs.

“He had a chip on his shoulder and I like that,” said Chicago head coach John Fox on the Bears’ website of his visit with Cohen when the scatback came to Chicago. “He always wants to prove people wrong. He has a confidence to him.

“When we get these guys in the building, a lot of time is spent with our coaches, really gathering their football intelligence. He (Cohen) has a really high football IQ, which is important for that position because you’re going to be moving him around a lot and doing a lot of different things with him. I think the thing that stood out was the energy that he has and he has a chip on his shoulder and I really like that about him.”

Cohen, at his draft celebration on the A&T campus Saturday, said, “I’m ready to make plays. I’m ready to play.”

Stewart said coming from NCAA Div. II Albany State will not be a problem as he steps up to face NFL competition. “I don’t see any difference between it. I’m going to play like I play, and dominate like I always do,” he said.

At 6-5, Stewart grew from 295 to 334 while at Albany State with no dropoff in production. He was an all-SIAC selection in all four years he played.

And dominate is just what he did registering 27 sacks and 48.5 tackles for losses while starting all four years. The Colts and others liked his power and explosiveness, footwork and ability to collapse the pocket. He was on the radar for a lot of teams and was one of the fastest movers up the draft boards. “I can play anywhere from nose (tackle) to three-technique,” he said online at coltswire.usatoday.

Ware is about as tall, at 6-7, 317, as Stewart is wide. The Raiders liked his long arms and NFL frame. Because of those attributes, Ware also moved steadily up the draft boards late.

Online at raiderswire.usatoday.com, Spencer Hall of CBS Sports said of Ware that he, “possesses superb run blocking abilities and this likely enticed Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie as the team has brought in former Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.”

Seven players signed free agent contracts and three others were given tryouts. Among the latter group was former Texas Southern basketball and football standout Derrick Griffin who was granted a tryout by Minnesota. “All I’ve asked for is a chance to prove myself,” Griffin said.

There’s a modest amount of guaranteed money invested in an undrafted free agent, while a tryout player isn’t guaranteed anything, one agent explained. “The main difference is if you’re an undrafted free agent, you sign your contract immediately. If you’re getting invited for a tryout, you’re basically going out there with a two- or thee-day tryout and then they decide out of this pool of 15 or 20 guys, ‘OK, we’re going to sign this one or that one.”

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

Packing your bags and moving to another location to close out your college basketball career is not always a good move. In fact, most times it has the opposite effect.

Bethune-Cookman’s 6-9 shot-blocker and 2015-16 MEAC Defensive Player of the Year LaRon Smith moved to Auburn of the SEC for his final year. Six-ten senior Doudou Gueye left South Carolina State after a run to the 2015-16 MEAC Tournament finals to play at Ball State.

Smith started three of the 24 games he played in for Auburn this year averaging 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and less than one block per game in 12 minutes per contest. In the MEAC, he led the league in field goal percentage (.585) and blocks per game (3.0), pulled down 6.9 rebounds and played about 25 minutes per game. He was third in the nation in blocked shots.

Gueye averaged 0.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in nearly nine minutes per game at SCSU. He averaged about the same in two less minutes in 18 games at Ball State this year.

Coppin State 2015-16 scoring leader Christian Kesee (14.6 ppg.) averaged 1.9 points in 29 games after joining head coach Tubby Smith at Memphis this season. He played 7.5 minutes per game for Memphis, a team-best 32.2 minutes at Coppin.

What gives?

Funny thing is, it used to be the other way around. Talented players would flame out at this or that big-time Div. I program and look for solace and a home at an HBCU. While that’s still happening to some degree, it’s now almost in reverse.

The fact is, none of the former black college players guys are stars at their new locations. Hampton transfer and former MEAC tourney MVP Deron Powers at least came close to equalling his numbers at Hampton. He was third in assists (5.2 per game) and 18th in points per game (13.0) for Hofstra in the Colonial Athletic Association though he did not make any of the three all-CAA teams.

It’s hard to believe that any of these guys has increased his chances of playing professionally with their moves. They are more likely now to be overlooked.

Florida A&M head coach Byron Samuels, who was let go after this season, who in addition to losing Bernard from last year’s squad lost his top two scorers (Jermaine Rutley and Jorge Rosa) off his 2014-15 team, calls the transfer debacle “a national epidemic and a disgrace.”

“In Division I basketball last year alone, about 900 kids transferred,” said Samuels. “That’s ridiculous. Secondly, we’ve had about eight of our better players in the MEAC in the two-and-a-half years that I’ve been here, that have left to go to so-called higher levels. In some cases, our guys are being recruited.”

To date, Verbal Commits, an online site that tracks player movement, totals 503 transfers just in 2017.

NCCU head coach LeVelle Moton said early this season, “there’s no loyalty in college basketball anymore.” He spoke of a player that he took in, rescued, nurtured and fed from his own table only to see him bolt at the first opportunity.

The big question is, why not take the route of former Norfolk State 6-10 center Kyle O’Quinn? The native New Yorker stayed at Norfolk State for four years and earned a bevy of awards (player of the year, defensive player of the year, tournament MVP) as an outstanding senior in the 2011-12 MEAC season, leading his team to the league’s regular season and tournament titles and NCAA Tournament berth.

He then led the Spartans to a stunning upset of Missouri on the big stage in the NCAA Big Dance. He got national acclaim and an opportunity to prove himself before NBA scouts.

He parlayed that into a second round selection in the NBA draft by Orlando and just finished his fourth year in the Association playing significant minutes for the New York Knicks.

What’s wrong with that?

Okay, so write this down. Basketball talent leaving Div. I HBCUs has become a new normal and a developing story in Div. I college basketball.

If this starts happening in college football however, with FCS HBCU stars leaving to join FBS teams, it will be no less than an upheaval.

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

There are an unusual number of significant and intriguing black college prospects for this week’s NFL Draft that begins Thursday (April 27) and will be held outdoors for the first time ever at the famous “Rocky Steps” in Philadelphia.

While none of this year’s prospects has the status or cachet of 2016 top black college pick Javon Hargrave out of South Carolina State – who was projected to go early in last year’s draft and went in the third round to the Pittsburgh Steelers – the sheer number of HBCU products getting major looks by league teams makes this year’s possible selections quite interesting.

No HBCU player is projected to go off the draft boards in Thursday’s first round which begins at 8 p.m. and none are expected to be taken in rounds two and three during Friday’s selections which begin at 7 p.m.

But on Saturday, as many as ten prospects could be taken when the league’s 32 teams make selections in rounds four through seven. Those selections will begin at noon Saturday.

It’s even hard to choose which HBCU player will go off the boards first. That’s what makes this year’s draft for HBCU products so unpredictable.

The first pick could be diminutive (5-9, 175) dynamic game breaker Tarik Cohen, who finished his career at North Carolina A&T as the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference’s all-time leading rusher (5,619 yards). Or it could be massive (6-7, 325) offensive tackle Javarius Leamon out of South Carolina State.

Many are projecting 6-4, 335-pound former Albany State defensive tackle Grover Stewart as the one of the top sleepers in the draft and one who could be taken early. Others that could slip into the top spot are 6-2, 245-pound tackling machine, linebacker Javancy Jones out of Jackson State, or 6-8, 295-pound offensive tackle Jylan Ware from Alabama State.

It would not even be a surprise if 6-4, 318-pound guard Jessamen Dunker of Tennessee State is the first off the board. Four TSU offensive linemen have been selected in the past three drafts.

Tennessee State defensive back Ezra Robinson (5-11, 189) is considered the top HBCU defensive back in this year’s draft and has been given a draftable grade at his position.

Grambling State wide receiver Chad Williams (6-1, 204) and Alabama State tight end Brandon Barnes (6-5, 255) are the top two pass-catching prospects. Each has generated some buzz with their performances leading up to the draft.

Perhaps the biggest HBCU talent and certainly the biggest enigma is former Texas Southern basketball and football standout Derrick Griffin (6-7, 230). Griffin was considered one of the top receiving prospects in the nation when he came out of a high school in the Dallas area but could not qualify academically at either Texas A&M or Miami. Instead, he enrolled at TSU.

In the 2015-16 season as a freshman, Griffin was a second team all-SWAC receiver in football and first team all-SWAC forward in basketball, sweeping the player and defensive player of the year awards. This year as a sophomore, he was dismissed from the football team after just two games and quit the basketball team after 13 games to prepare for the draft.

Scouts say his skill set and athleticism are “off-the-charts” but how and where he projects in the draft is anybody’s guess.

If all ten players mentioned make it into the draft it would be the highest number since eight were selected in 2003 and the first double digit haul since 2000.

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

At least 12 all-MEAC basketball players or all-MEAC caliber talents have transferred out of the conference in the last four years. Former Norfolk State 6-8 forward Rashid Gaston and former Florida A&M 6-6 left-handed guard Malcom Bernard left the Spartans and Rattlers respectively over the last two years to play their final seasons at Xavier of the Big East. “I wanted to have the chance to go to the NCAA tournament,” Bernard said on Cincinnati.com of his move last year, similar to what Gaston expressed while leaving NSU two seasons ago. “I wanted to win a lot of games and be successful,” Bernard said. “I thought if I transferred, I would be able to do something bigger somewhere else.”

That’s not necessarily been the case. At NSU in the 2014-15 season, Gaston averaged a near double-double of 15.5 points and 9.6 boards per game on a 20-14 team. Bernard left an 8-21 Florida A&M team after averaging 14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds a year ago. At Xavier, playing on much more talented squads, neither has approached those numbers.

Gaston averaged 7.4 points and team-bests of 5.9 rebounds and 0.5 blocks for the 24-14 Musketeers this season, just above Bernard’s 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. Bernard started 35 of 38 games. Gaston started 18. Bernard averaged over 28 minutes per game, Gaston 20.

Both had their moments. Gaston led Xavier in rebounding in 11 games and had his best outing in a 23-point, 10-rebound effort in a loss to Villanova on Feb. 11. He followed that up with a 19-point, 14-rebound performance in a loss to Providence four days later.

Bernard had perhaps his best game in a battle against Arizona in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. He scored 15 points and pulled down six rebounds in a 73-71 Musketeers win over the second-seeded Wildcats that advanced Xavier to the Elite Eight. Both Gaston and Bernard had five points in a 83-59 loss to eventual national runner-up Gonzaga that ended their season. As for exposure, reaching the Elite Eight at Xavier is certainly bigger than 17-17 Norfolk State’s run to the MEAC Tournament finals and a first round appearance in the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament or FAMU’s 8-21 finish.

Sterling Smith, an all-MEAC guard at Coppin State, wound up as a starter at Pittsburgh in the ACC in the 2015-16 season. Richaud Pack, a 17-point scorer and another all-MEAC player at North Carolina A&T in 2014, ended up as an occasional starter on Maryland’s Big 10 squad a year ago.

Smith, after averaging 13.1 points and 30 minutes a game at Coppin, averaged 4.3 points and 17 minutes for the Panthers last season. Pack’s 17 points and 34 minutes per game at A&T turned into 5.8 points and 25 minutes a night for the 2015-16 Terps.

“I was stunned and disappointed,” said Cy Alexander, then Pack’s coach at A&T. “He was projected to be our leading scorer coming back. When he decided to leave at the late date that he did, it was impossible to recruit someone of his skill and athletic ability to replace him. It was an obstacle we could not overcome.”

Alexander said Pack wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament and figured that Maryland, in a multiple-bid league like the Big 10, had a better chance than A&T in the one-bid MEAC. Alexander said Pack indicated that it didn’t matter if he didn’t play. Perhaps it’s the old adage of, ‘I’d rather be a little fish in a big pond than a big fish in a little pond.’ Okay, but does that make sense?

Deron Powers of Hampton bolted the Pirates after they won the 2015 MEAC Tournament title and he was named the tourney’s Most Valuable Player. He led the Pirates into a first round NCAA Tournament matchup with topside Kentucky. Powers, a 5-11 former MEAC rookie of the year who had scored 1,080 points and handed 385 assists in his three years at Hampton, would have been the top returning point guard in the MEAC. He scored 10 points and handed out 3.7 assists per game and was among the league leaders playing over 32 minutes per game in his final season with the Pirates.

He took up residence at Hofstra University of the Colonial Athletic Association, another one-bid league, and after sitting out last season played his final year of eligibility for the Pride. Powers is one of the few whose numbers have gone up since transferring. He scored 13.0 points and dished out 5.2 assists per game for the 15-17 Pride in just about the same number of minutes.

Powers told a newspaper at the time of his transferring that one of his reasons for the move was “the vibe I got up there when I went to visit, how seriously they take basketball.” He was also quoted saying he wanted to go to a “better program” in a “better setting.”
Seriously?

Let’s see. Hofstra drew 2,819 to its largest attended home game this season on Feb. 4 vs. Drexel. By contrast, Hampton drew 3,214 to its Jan. 25 home date vs. South Carolina State and 4,545 that showed up for a showdown vs. North Carolina Central on Jan. 16.

Hofstra finished 7-11 in CAA play, good for seventh in the 10-team CAA. Hampton was 14-17 overall, fourth in the MEAC at 11-5 and played in the College Basketball Invitational postseason tournament. Powers went from a little pond to a smaller pond.

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

You know things have changed in NCAA Div. I men’s college basketball when HBCU teams are being raided of their talented players.

In the latest reported defection, Howard senior guard James ‘J-Byrd’ Daniel, who led the nation in scoring in the 2015-16 season but played in only two games this season after suffering a preseason high ankle sprain, has decided to leave the Bison for what he hopes will be greener pastures.

Reports this week indicate Daniel is choosing between Missouri, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee and DePaul.

That never happened before. For the most part, HBCUs got good but marginal players and certainly not the kind of blue-chip talent that major D1 schools went after and landed.

That was then.

Now, HBCU coaches better keep their heads on the proverbial swivel and keep their talented players under wraps, or at least keep them happy. That’s because the so-called ‘high major’ teams in the ACC, Big East, SEC, Big Ten, Pac 12 etc., and even the mid-majors are being drained by the NBA of their top talent, primarily by the NBA, and early in most cases, in players’ first or second years. One-and-done is the new normal. That means they have to look elsewhere, anywhere for talented players.

Even to HBCUs, you might ask? Even to HBCUs is the answer. It’s a dog-eat-dog world!

Howard head coach Kevin Nickelberry, who recruited Daniel out of Hampton, Virginia’s Phoebus High School and has coached him in his four years playing for the Bison, says his biggest recruiting task each year Daniel has been at Howard has been keeping him there.

In the 2013-14 season, the 5-11 Daniel became the first freshman to lead the MEAC in scoring when he averaged 21.7 points per game and was named the conference’s top freshman. With more talent around him as a sophomore, he put up 16.7 points per game and was named first team all-conference. Last year as a junior he topped the nation scoring 27.1 points per game and also led all Div. I players in free throws made and attempted, was fourth in total points and fifth in total field goals. He was the 2015-16 MEAC Player of the Year and the 2016-17 preseason pick by league coaches to repeat with that honor. He is already Howard’s all-time leading scorer with 1,933 points and trails only Tom Davis of Delaware State (1987-91) as the MEAC’s all-time leading scorer (2,275 points).

Though Daniel told the BCSP two weeks ago that he had not ruled out returning to Howard, Nickelberry now seems resigned to losing him.

“It’s a trend in college basketball now. Fifth year guys look at their options,” said Nickelberry. “He’s had an unbelievable career for us and it would be selfish of me, and unfair to the process, not to let him go through it. I’m going to support him. And whatever happens, it can’t change the career he’s had for us and what he’s done for our program.

“This is a family decision. And I’m sure he’ll make the best decision for him, his future and his family.”

Nickelberry also said James T. Miller, a talented redshirt junior who battled injuries this season but was Howard’s second-leading scorer at 14.7 points per game, will play his final year of eligibility elsewhere. Reports indicate Miller will transfer to Missouri State.

According to NCAA statistics, 40% of Div. I basketball recruits leave their initial school by the end of their sophomore year. In other words, plenty players transfer. Sometimes it’s for lack of playing time. Other times it’s because they get in trouble or don’t get along with the coach or perhaps the school is facing some kind of probation. Some leave for a less competitive conference or move down to Div. II. Increasingly, players are leaving to play elsewhere in their fifth year of eligibility.

Regardless of why, HBCU teams losing their star players is a new phenomenon. The Mid Eastern Athletic Conference has been hit particularly hard.

North Carolina Central’s 6-7, 215-pound forward Stanton Kidd could be the poster boy for this new trend. Kidd averaged 14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in 2013, his only year at NCCU after two years at South Plains Junior College in Texas and one year at Charleston Southern.

In 2013, he left the Eagles to play his last year of eligibility at Colorado State. The move so shocked and caught NCCU head coach LeVelle Moton off-guard that he refuses to talk about it even now.

He was first team all-MEAC at NCCU. But what got him to thinking about so-called ‘greener pastures’ was that he played well against the major programs, averaging right at 20 points in games against Wichita State, Drake and Marquette.

At the time, Kidd told his hometown newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, “I shocked myself. I said, ‘If I can do that here, I know I can do it at another level against better competition.’ I’m not saying I played down to my level, but if you play at a higher level, it brings out the best in you.”

There it is. At least, that’s one way the thinking goes.

Without Kidd, NCCU finished 28-6, won the MEAC Tournament and played and lost to Iowa State (93-75) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. With Kidd, they may have gone farther. At CSU the following year, Kidd, after sitting out a year, averaged 11.6 points and 5.1 rebounds. CSU finished 27-7 and lost a first round NIT game to South Dakota State. Kidd is playing this year overseas in Germany.

Since then, the flood gates have opened.

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

GRAMBLING, La.
Grambling State University interim women’s basketball head coach Freddie Murray is no longer interim. Murray was named women’s basketball head coach last Wednesday morning.

Murray, Athletics Director Paul Bryant and GSU President Rick Gallot signed a two-year agreement in the president’s office. Murray had filled the job on an interim basis since July 2016. Bryant, who started as athletics director in January, said all coaches have been under review and it became clear to him early that retaining Murray should be a priority.

The university and Murray have agreed to a two-year deal with an annual salary of $120,000, contingent on approval of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors. The contract extends from April 2017 through May 2019.

Gallot praised Murray’s vision and commitment to the university and the program. “I’m looking forward to us all growing old together here at Grambling State University,” he said.

“As a lifelong athletics and sports enthusiast, I appreciate and enjoy all sports. As a former basketball coach, I think I know something about what it takes to be a good basketball coach — and Murray has it all,” said Bryant. “He’s dedicated and focused, he knows the game, and he challenges and encourages his players to get the most out of them individually and as a team. Hiring him was a no-brainer.”

Murray, a 1990 Jackson State University graduate, joined the Lady Tigers basketball program as an assistant coach under then head coach Nadine Domond. In his first year, he helped Domond and the Lady Tigers with a strong 17-14 overall record and 13-5 record in Southwestern Athletic Conference competition. Two players were selected SWAC All-Conference – Jazmin Boyd (SWAC Freshman of the Year) and Shakyla Hill (SWAC Second Team All-Conference). He took over as interim head coach when Domond left for Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Before joining GSU, Murray was assistant women’s basketball coach at Florida A&M University from 2010-2015, helping the Lady Rattlers to their best record in 2010 when they finished the season 22-8. In previous roles, he worked as an assistant coach at North Carolina A&T State University twice from 2003-2005 and 2007-2010. During his second coaching job at A&T, the team won three Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season championships and trips to the NCAA and WNIT Tournaments.

One team from each of the four black college conferences finished the 2016-17 season on top of the final BCSP Top Ten.

The North Carolina Central men (25-9), who won both regular season and tournament titles in the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference, topped the NCAA Div. I men’s Top Five.

The women of Texas Southern (23-10) tied for the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season title with Grambling State and then knocked off the Lady Tigers in the SWAC championship game to earn the top spot for the Div. I women.

The ladies of Virginia Union (28-5) did not win the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament title but went on to capture the NCAA Div. II Atlantic Region title and make it all the way to the D2 championship game to earn the ladies the women’s Div. II top ranking.

And eventual men’s champion Clark Atlanta (21-12) was seeded second in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament and became the highest seeded team to capture a Div.
II conference title as they defeated Fort Valley State for the SIAC title. That earned the Panthers and first-year head coach Darrell Walker the top Div. II designation.

Clark Atlanta’s Walker joins another Walker, Grambling State’s now departed head coach Shawn Walker in sharing the Men’s Coach of the Year award. Shawn Walker led the G-Men to a 16-17 finish overall after finishing 7-24 a season ago. Grambling finished third in the SWAC regular season and fell in the SWAC Tournament semifinals to eventual champion Texas Southern.

VUU second-year coach AnnMarie Gilbert repeated as the women’s coach of the year as she led the Lady Panthers to their second straight Atlantic Region title and Elite Eight appearance.
This year the Lady Panthers won two games at the Elite Eight before falling in the Div. II championship game to Ashland, 93-77.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
Lynn W. Thompson, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics, announced Friday, March 31, the appointment of Ryan Ridder as the next head coach for Bethune-Cookman Men’s Basketball.

“I have watched and admired Ryan Ridder from his days as a stellar student-athlete in high school and college, and also witnessed his growth and success as a coach on the college level,” said Thompson. “I know him. I know his family.

His DNA is made up of integrity, passion and the ability to teach. He is an outstanding servant leader who just happens to be a phenomenal basketball coach. His progression as a college coach on each level has prepared him to accept this challenge. He is a local product with great knowledge and respect for our university and community, and we are proud to have one of the great young coaches in the nation to join the B-CU family.”

No stranger to Daytona Beach area basketball as both a player and coach, Ridder comes to Bethune-Cookman after a four-year stint at Daytona State (Junior) College.

Ridder was successful in helping lead a resurgence of the Falcons program that produced 95 victories and four Mid-Florida Conference championships. Daytona State also finished the regular season ranked in the NJCAA National Poll in all four of Ridder’s seasons. Ridder was named Mid-Florida Conference Coach of the Year in each of his four seasons at the helm of the Falcons program.

Off the court, Ridder’s student-athletes had a 100 percent graduation his first two years and 96 percent overall across four years. No stranger to the Division I level of athletics, Ridder served three years as an assistant coach at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina.