Midway through the first half, the Fayetteville State Broncos needed a spark. Jarmel Baxter provided one. And for a while, that was enough. But the Broncos couldn't overcome 22 turnovers and 28 fouls and Virginia Union had four players score in double figures to rally past Fayetteville State 82-77 on Monday in a nonconference game between CIAA foes
Alphonza Kee is embarking on his seventh season as the head men's basketball coach at Fayetteville State University.
Having made his initial mark on Fayetteville State over a decade ago, Kee was named head coach of the Broncos basketball program in 2009 after serving as an assistant men's basketball coach and recruiting coordinator with Grambling State University in Grambling, Louisiana.
Kee accomplished multiple career milestones to conclude the 2013-14 season. Fayetteville State finished with an overall record of 19-10 overall and 10-6 in conference play. The 19 victories set a new single season high for Kee and marked the best record for the FSU men's basketball program since the 1992-93 season when the Broncos finished 20-9 under Jeff Capel. Kee was rewarded for his coaching effort by being named the 2014 CIAA Coach of the Year.
During his tenure in Fayetteville, Kee has quickly gone about the work of rebuilding Fayetteville State, taking a team that finished 8-19 in his first season to a 15-14 record in 2010-11. In that second season, not only did Kee instill marked optimism in the program, he guided the Broncos to the semifinals of the CIAA Tornament. Kee would then lead Fayetteville State to a 10-17 record and an appearance in the CIAA quarterfinals in 2011-12. In 2012-13, FSU went 9-17 before losing in the first round of the conference tournament.
He has coached five All-Conference and Preseason All-Conference performers during his tenure with the program. Jamel Carpenter was named All-Conference in 2009-10, Sidney Evans was honored 2010-11 and Tyrrel Tate made All-Conference in 2012-13, while current players Tate (2010-11) and Anthony Shelton (2011-12) were recognized on the All-Rookie Team. Ariel Robinson (2009-10), along with Carpenter and Evans (2010-11), and Tate (2012-13, 2013-14) have earned Preseason All-Conference honors.
Kee began his playing career at Lamar Community College in Lamar, Colorado. While at Lamar, he excelled as a three-point shooter and once hit a school record ten three-pointers in one game. Following his JUCO career, Kee signed with Fayetteville State where he lettered two seasons under former head coach Rick Duckett. He made the first field goal and three-point basket in Felton J. Capel Arena during the 1995 season against Francis Marion University.
Prior to his time with the Grambling State Tigers, Kee was the top assistant and recruiting coordinator of North Carolina A&T State University from 2003-08.
A mentor to numerous school-age children across the area, Kee believes his community service is his most important goal and ambition.
"Young people are impressionable and I have to - I have to - be able to coach them as well," he said.
Upon returning to his alma mater to coach, Kee quickly went about making connections not just in recruiting circles, but in the Fayetteville community as well. He contacted area schools, including McLauchlin Elementary School, where he teams with school officials to build a Young Men of Distinction program.
The program is a results-based system that emphasizes character development while increasing class performance. Students - and their parents - are required to consent to the program with achieving these lofty goals in mind. Sign on, and Coach Kee will keep an eye on you. But he'll also encourage you, speak with you, take time out with you and discuss anything you want to discuss.
"We talk about real issues," Kee said. "It's not too young to have a goal. We really have to balance character and integrity because a society and the media do not stress that. We really have a big fight on our hands and I'm ready. These young males have to be great and learn to be disciplined, to do the right thing and value education. Then they can lead in our society."
It's a life lesson that Kee feels is necessary to ingrain as early as possible - like his mother did for him. But it also works with the Broncos.
"It's like our players currently," he says. "We want our guys to be productive citizens, leaders, fathers and good citizens. That fight and that battle, for me, is a daily battle. But I'm very excited to represent Fayetteville State in that way."
Throughout the year, Kee speaks at schools, community organizations and basketball camps. The connection of basketball and teaching lifelong goals and character traits is clearly obvious to him, even if it's not so at first to the young men he is trying to reach. But basketball gets Kee into the door - and allows him the opportunity to stay - and team - a while.
"Basketball gets the attention," Kee says. "(Young people) equate that with the fun and the extracurricular, but I can grab their attention and talk about the fundamentals to success. It's a tremendous platform that I use daily."
"To see their eyebrows raise and get their attention because we come from basketball is one thing, but to come back and hear tangible improvement from the principal in academic areas, and they say it's a testament to the influence of the program, that's incredible."