Hampton Pirates

Reginald Johnson
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MEAC Preview: Hampton trying to go back to tournament

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the MEAC.

Not much is expected of the MEAC from casual college hoops fans. The league is as one-bid as it gets and MEAC teams don’t get seeded outside the teens very frequently.

But Hampton made a solid impression in the big dance last season, as they made a surprising conference tournament run and followed that up by beating Manhattan in one of the play-in games. The Pirates return four starters from that team, led by talented redshirt senior forward Quinton Chievous, and the experienced backcourt of Reginald Johnson and Jervon Pressley is also back. Hampton is hoping they aren’t as inconsistent in the regular season as last year, but they have the returning talent to compete for another NCAA tournament bid.

Following behind Hampton is a talented roster at North Carolina Central that will feature a number of new faces. The Eagles were unbeaten regular season champions of the MEAC a year ago, but only senior guard Dante Holmes returns from that group. Redshirt forward Jay Copeland is a former starter who should contribute and head coach LeVelle Moton is hoping some newcomers and transfers step in and produce.

Norfolk State has the league’s most gifted player in senior guard Jeff Short, but the Spartans need more help for Short besides perimeter running mate D’Shon Taylor. Replacing forward Rashid Gaston will be the most challenging task for Norfolk State this season. Howard packs some of the league’s best scoring punch with guards James Daniel and James Miller returning. Head coach Kevin Nickelberry is hoping senior Prince Okoroh is healthy and productive after missing the 2014-15 season with a broken foot. If the Bison can find more around that dangerous trio, they could be dangerous.

One team that should rise in the MEAC standings this season is North Carolina A&T, who returns all five starters and eight key rotation players from last season. Senior forward Bruce Beckford is a potential all-MEAC talent and he’s surrounded by an experienced team that starts all upperclassmen. Maryland-Eastern Shore is hoping to ride the momentum of a solid first season under second-year head coach Bobby Collins as they return talented senior guard Devin Martin and starting forward Dominique Elliot. The Hawks also hope that MEAC Rookie of the Year Ryan Andino has a solid sophomore campaign.

Last season, South Carolina State had one of the worst offenses in the nation, but they’re hoping that improves as four starters return. Sophomore guard Edward Stephens returns after averaging 12 points per game and the Bulldogs want junior point guard Jalen White to take an additional leap after taking over the reigns last season. Looking for additional help this season will be Morgan State, who needs more around star senior forward Cedric Blossom. The 6-foot-6 Blossom played nearly 35 minutes a game last season and is the only returning player who averaged more than 6.6 points per game.

It was no issue for Coppin State to put up big points last season, but the team’s defense consistently let it down. After losing three starters who averaged double-figures in points, head coach Michael Grant is hoping that a reshaped roster with six new recruits can get some more stops. Junior guard Christian Kessee returns as the team’s most consistent producer. Delaware State has to replace MEAC leading scorer Amere May and MEAC Player of the Year Kendall Gray, so it will be a rebuilding year. Junior guard DeAndre Haywood is the team’s only returning starter.

A lot of question marks loom for Bethune-Cookman, as they rely heavily on three transfers and a big group of freshmen. Senior guard Ricky Johnson is back and he isn’t flanked by much experience. Savannah State was one of the worst in perimeter shooting in the country last season and the Tigers are hoping eight newcomers help space the floor. Florida A&M was 2-27 last season and the program is still dealing with NCAA sanctions from a low APR score.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE

  • Favorite: “Hampton returns four starters from a team that won a game in the NCAA tournament. They’re the team to beat until proven otherwise.”
  • Sleeper: “North Carolina A&T has a chance to make an impact. They are going to have talent and Cy [Alexander] tends to win when he has upperclassmen.”
  • Star to watch: “Jeff Short is the best scorer in the league, a big wing who can score in multiple ways. He can take over a game by himself offensively.”

PRESEASON MEAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jeff Short, Norfolk State

A tremendous two-way perimeter player, Short is the runaway preseason favorite in this category after a monster junior season. Short averaged 19.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while also putting up good shooting splits (49% FG, 39% 3PT, 82% FT). The 6-foot-4 Short can get going from the perimeter or get to the basket and can be unstoppable at times.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-MEAC TEAM:

  • Bruce Beckford, North Carolina A&T: One of the more underappreciated players in the MEAC, Beckford continues to improve over the course of his college career. Averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game on 44 percent shooting and 82 percent from the free-throw line.
  • Dante Holmes, North Carolina Central: The Eagles lose four starters, but the 6-foot-3 senior guard returns after averaging 10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Holmes will be relied on to put up good numbers across the board now that he’s a senior leader.
  • Quinton Chievous, Hampton: The 6-foot-6 senior put up some big games on good competition. Chievous had three double-doubles in his final four games including the NCAA tournament against Manhattan and Kentucky.
  • James Daniel, Howard: Howard’s first 1,000-point scorer as an underclassman, Daniel averaged 16.7 points and 2.4 assists per game as a sophomore.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @MEACSports

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Hampton
2. North Carolina Central
3. Norfolk State
4. Howard
5. North Carolina A&T
6. Maryland-Eastern Shore
7. South Carolina State
8. Morgan State
9. Coppin State
10. Delaware State
11. Bethune-Cookman
12. Savannah State
13. Florida A&M

Experienced guard Deron Powers will transfer from Hampton

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source: Getty Images
(Getty Images)

Hampton junior guard Deron Powers will transfer a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 5-foot-11 guard started 94 games during his three-year career at Hampton, and helped the team reach the 2015 NCAA tournament, but he told Dave Johnson of the Daily Press that he wants to play at a higher level.

“Honestly, I want to play for a better program,” Powers said to Johnson. “I’m definitely up for anything, and it doesn’t have to be at the highest level. There are a lot of good programs I wouldn’t mind going to, but I am looking for a higher-profile team that needs a point guard.”

Powers averaged 10.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game as a junior for Hampton while shooting 38 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point range. He’ll have to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules before playing his final season of college basketball.

 

Karl-Anthony Towns scores 21 as No. 1 Kentucky takes care of No. 16 Hampton

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Having won all 34 of their games prior to Thursday night, No. 1 Kentucky was expected to make short work of No. 16 Hampton in their NCAA tournament opener. And that’s pretty much what happened in Louisville, as the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament took control of the game in the first half and ultimately moved to 35-0 on the season with a 79-56 victory.

Karl-Anthony Towns led the way offensively for John Calipari’s team, as he scored 21 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking three shots. As a team Kentucky finished with four double-digit scorers and shot 45.9 percent from the field, scoring 44 of their points in the paint and another 20 from the foul line.

And while the field goal percentage may look low considering the size of the opposition, that includes Aaron Harrison and Devin Booker shooting a combined 1-for-11 from the field. Hampton, which continued to compete throughout the night, shot just 28.8 percent from the field and 4-for-16 from beyond the arc.

And besides Quinton Chievous, who two days after spraining his ankle in a win over Manhattan accounted for 22 points and ten rebounds, no Pirate scored more than nine points.

Next up for the Wildcats is No. 8 Cincinnati, which edged No. 9 Purdue in overtime in the first game of the evening session.

Hampton navigates Manhattan pressure to win NCAA Tournament opener

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Edward Joyner Jr.’s Hampton Pirates ended the regular season with a losing record, and they were the six-seed in the MEAC tournament. Yet despite playing without injured forward Dwight Meikle the Pirates were able to win the conference’s automatic bid, and on Tuesday night they won the opening game of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Quinton Chievous tallied a double-double in the first half and finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, Reginald Johnson added 15 points and Brian Darden 13 as Hampton beat Manhattan 74-64 in the First Four in Dayton. Hampton’s reward for the win: a game against top overall seed Kentucky Thursday in Louisville.

Hampton did a good job of navigating the Manhattan pressure, which also impacted the Jaspers’ effectiveness on offense. The Pirates committed 14 turnovers, three fewer than Manhattan, and the absence of open-floor opportunities meant that Steve Masiello’s team had to attempt to crack Hampton’s half-court defense. They were unable to do so, shooting 37.1 percent from the field and 6-for-25 from beyond the arc.

They were also outscored by wide margins in both fast break (20-2 Hampton) and paint (36-22 Hampton) points, with the Pirates shooting just over 49 percent from the field. As important as Chievous and Johnson were for Hampton, point guard Deron Powers was another critical player on the night.

Powers was responsible for seven of Hampton’s 20 assists, and he committed just three turnovers. With Powers leading the way Hampton was able to get multiple open-floor opportunities as they took control of the game in the first half.

The end result was the program’s first NCAA tournament victory since 2001, when they upset two-seed Iowa State, and they’re the latest team to take advantage of a game in Dayton despite entering the field with a losing record. With Hampton’s win seven of last nine teams to enter the NCAA tournament with a losing record have won a game. That also earns a second monetary unit for the MEAC, and that is why smaller conferences don’t have much of an issue with their representative having to go to Dayton.

When asked about the possibility of facing Kentucky on Monday, Joyner joked that he would “probably have Jesus or somebody on speed dial.” And with Meikle (high ankle sprain) and Chievous (ankle) at less than full strength, and incredibly difficult task gets even tougher for Hampton. The good news for the Pirates is that they’ll get the chance to compete.

Introducing Cinderella: Meet the Hampton Pirates

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Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic

Coach: Edward Joyner Jr.

Record: 16-17 (8-8)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 263
RPI (per NCAA.com): 259
AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding: Hampton will in all likelihood be a 16-seed in the bracket when it’s announced Sunday.

Names you need to know: F Dwight Meikle (13.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg), G Quinton Cheivous (10.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg), G Reginald Johnson (11.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg), G Deron Powers (10.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.7 apg)

Stats you need to know: The Pirates have struggled offensively for much of this season, as they’ve shot 40.7 percent from the field and 30.1 percent from beyond the arc. But if there’s one thing this team does well it’s get to the foul line, as they’re 16th in the country in attempts (778) and 32nd in free throw rate (43.6) per kenpom.com. Defensively the Pirates limit opponents to 41.2 percent shooting from the field, and team are shooting 44.0 percent inside of the arc (50th nationally per kenpom.com).

Tendencies: Hampton tends to play man, and it’s helped them pick up a steal on nearly eight percent of their defensive possessions (40th nationally per kenpom.com). As for the offense this is a group that has no issues sharing the scoring responsibilities, with five players attempting between 247 (Brian Darden) and 295 (Meikle) shots on the season. With four players averaging double figures and Darden not far off at 9.7 ppg, Hampton can look to multiple players for contributions on that end of the floor.

Big wins, bad losses: Their isn’t a whole lot on the resume from a big wins standpoint, with Hampton’s best wins coming against Northern Arizona and Maryland-Eastern Shore (who they beat twice). As for the losses, the Pirates lost to Appalachian State in non-conference play and there was a six-game losing skid in January that included losses to North Carolina A&T, Savannah State and South Carolina State.

How’d they get here?: After losing three of their final four games to end the regular season Hampton won three straight at the MEAC tournament, including an 82-61 win over Delaware State in the title game. The Pirates upset two-seed Norfolk State in the MEAC semis.

Outlook: The Pirates are headed to Dayton, and given their resume there’s no disputing that. But as a positive, said trip gives the program a shot at its first NCAA tournament victory since 2001.

How do I know you?: That 2001 victory is how you’ll know the Pirates, as they upset two-seed Iowa State in Boise. And the celebration was a memorable one, with then-head coach Steve Merfeld being lifted into the air by one of his players and cheerleaders and band members rushing the court.

2014-15 MEAC Preview: North Carolina Central aiming for repeat

North Carolina Central's LeVelle Moton (Getty Images)
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North Carolina Central’s LeVelle Moton (Getty Images)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Last season LeVelle Moton led his alma mater, North Carolina Central, to its first MEAC title and NCAA tournament appearance in what was a historic run. The Eagles rolled to a 16-1 record in regular season play, and the way in which North Carolina Central dominated their conference opponents on both ends of the floor has seldom been seen in the history of the MEAC. The question now: what will North Carolina Central do for an encore? The Eagles will have to account for the loss of leading scorer and MEAC Player of the Year Jeremy Ingram, who averaged 20.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest as a senior.

The good news for North Carolina Central is that their top three front court players, led by senior Jordan Parks (10.1 ppg, 5.6rpg), are back in Durham and they’ll have 6-foot-11 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi transfer Nate Maxey as well. If the Eagles can get solid production from their perimeter options, which includes Lamar transfer Nimrod Hilliard and Colby CC transfer Jeremiah Ingram, North Carolina Central will be more than capable of repeating as MEAC champions.

RELATED: LeVelle Moton on how he is developing a ‘culture’ at UNC-Central

However the Eagles aren’t the favorites in the MEAC entering the 2014-15 season. That label belongs to a Hampton squad that won 13 league games a season ago.

Edward Joyner Jr.’s Pirates will be led by sophomore guard Deron Powers, who averaged 11.8 points and 4.0 assists per game as a freshman. Four of Hampton’s top five scorers return but that one loss is a big one, as Du’Vaughn Maxwell (14.9, 7.3 rpg, 3.0 rpg) was the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year last season. In order to account for the loss of Maxwell, Hampton will need front court returnees such as senior Emmanuel Okoroba and junior Jervon Pressley, to step forward on what will likely be a perimeter-oriented team given the lack of depth inside.

In Robert Jones’ first season at the helm Norfolk State finished tied for third in the MEAC with an 11-5 league record, and the Spartans will look to improve on that despite losing their top three scorers. Senior point guard Jamel Fuentes returns, and multiple transfers including Jeff Short (Fordham) and Malik Thomas (Boston University) have prior experience at the Division I level. Delaware State, which returns two of its top three scorers led by forward Tyshawn Bell and center Kendall Gray, will look to rebound from a disappointing 2013-14 and Morgan State has hopes of taking the next step after falling in each of the last two MEAC tournament title games.

North Carolina Central will be seen as the favorites, but it will be difficult for the Eagles to put together a title run as dominant as last season’s effort due in part to the strength of the challengers.

PRESEASON MEAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kendall Gray, Delaware State

After having a clear-cut winner last season (Ingram) there will be some suspense when it comes to MEAC Player of the Year in 2014-15. Gray averaged 11.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game as a junior, and he’ll be asked to lead the way for a team capable of rebounding from last year’s 5-11 conference mark.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-MEAC TEAM:

  • James Daniel, Howard: Daniel was the MEAC’s best freshman last season, scoring 21.7 points per game for the Bison.
  • Deron Powers, Hampton: Powers accounted for 11.8 points and 4.0 assists per game last season.
  • Jordan Parks, North Carolina Central: Parks didn’t make a single start last season, but he still managed to account for 10.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in 19 minutes of action per game.
  • Nimrod Hilliard, North Carolina Central: The honorable mention All-Southland selection at Lamar last season can help the Eagles account for Jeremy Ingram’s departure offensively.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @MEAC1970

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Hampton
2. North Carolina Central
3. Norfolk State
4. Delaware State
5. Morgan State
6. Coppin State
7. Howard
8. Savannah State
9. Bethune-Cookman
10. North Carolina A&T
11. Maryland-Eastern Shore
12. South Carolina State
13. Florida A&M