Nov. 10, 2011
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - It didn't take long a year ago for the Fayetteville State men's basketball program to generate the buzz that would follow its vast improvement throughout the 2010-11 season.
Early in the first half in the season-opener against Barber-Scotia, guard Jarrick Jones angled to the left wing, beyond the 3-point line. He wasn't looking to shoot.
And while he may not have been looking to personally introduce the Broncos' fans to future All-CIAA forward Sidney Evans, he effectively did so anyway, as Jones' alley-oop pass was easily handled by Evans, who, in slamming the ball down, essentially did the same to the house, sending the Felton J. Capel crowd into a raucous fervor.
The Broncos were off and running to a 48-16 lead by the half, but in the end, it was the less about the score and more about the aesthetic of it all. The Broncos were coming, and they had no plans to return to the basement of the CIAA.
That excitement culminated in an inspiring run to the CIAA Tournament semifinals, which the Broncos reached after Evans buried a fallaway 3-pointer from the corner to shock Southern Division champion Winston-Salem State.
The hope of yesterday, though, is the expectation of today. And today is finally here.
Fayetteville State will open its basketball season at home on Friday night against the Barber-Scotia Sabres with a 7:30 tip following the Lady Broncos' season-opener at 5:30 p.m. Fayetteville State's women's team is also playing Barber-Scotia to begin the 2011-12 season.
For the men's team and third-year head coach Alphonza Kee, this season marks one of continuity for the first time since Kee returned to his alma mater.
"Last year was Year 2 of our rebuilding plan, and we had five new faces to the program - two freshmen and three junior college transfers - and they were major pieces," Kee says. "Everything was extremely new. This year, everyone understands the program, they understand the protocol, they understand the philosophies, and this year, we know who we are."
Into Year 3 of Kee's process, the Broncos are poised to continue their upward climb. While the freshman class brings added depth to the guard position, specifically at point guard with Anthony Shelton (r., Cary, N.C.), it is the class of 2010 that has Fayetteville State eying contender status in the CIAA. Four starters return from the team a year ago, including Evans (Sr., Durham, N.C.) and the dazzling, athletic Tim Plummer (Sr., Apex, N.C.).
The Broncos featured balanced scoring in a high-octane offense, and center John Herrington (Sr., Jacksonville, N.C.) also returns to solidify the paint. CIAA All-Rookie pick Tyrrel Tate (So., Raleigh, N.C.) also returns, giving the Broncos instant offense off the bench.
Perhaps most intriguing for Fayetteville State, though, will be the return of redshirt senior Jamel Carpenter (Salisbury, N.C.), who led the CIAA in scoring by averaging 19.8 points per game in 2009-10. The 6-foot-4 wing player gives the Broncos a true star on the floor and a dedicated leader in and out of the locker room.
"For the first time, this is the first year for me to coach a team I've fully recruited," Kee says of the Broncos. "I've walked with and talked with moms and dads and know who each of them are with respect to our players. We're all on the same page."
The Lady Broncos look to regain the momentum that led them to the 2010 CIAA Championship. Fayetteville State began its own rebuilding effort a year ago, and returns to the hardwood this season boasting more experience, depth and talent.
"Definitely, we're more experienced," says coach Eva Patterson-Heath. "With the influx of the transfers from Divison-1 and junior college, as well as a year of growth behind us, that gives us an added advantage to where we were last year at this point."
The Lady Broncos enter the new season without the familiar face of Tiffany Haywood
, a perennial All-CIAA selection and the 2010 CIAA Tournament MVP. But even with Haywood's steady presence in the paint gone, Fayetteville State looks to continue to improve in the post with twin towers SheQuitia Manning
(Sr., Capital Heights, Mary.) and Tierra Coleman
(Jr., Cameron, N.C.), two starters who each saw extensive time in the paint a year ago. Both players provide the needed experience for a young squad, and each had moments last season that foreshadowed their capabilities in leading the Lady Broncos in 2011-12.
Running the show will be returning starting point guard Je'Lena Robertson (So., Houston, Texas), who emerged a steady and efficient playmaker by the end of last season.
While the loss of shooter LaQuasha Jordan is significant, the Lady Broncos have reloaded the backcourt through recruiting, adding UNC Greensboro transfer Tashama Banner (Sr., Fayetteville, N.C.) as well as Presbyterian transfer Ayksia Resper So., Concord, N.C.). Six-foot-4 freshman Bria Robinson (Belmont, N.C.) also brings added quickness and depth in the post.
Patterson-Heath looks forward to Fayetteville State getting off on the right foot to begin the new season.
"A win always feels good, and it makes you feel good for a brief period of time before the next game," she says. "But getting a win at home is important to our psyche."
For information on how to purchase tickets to the game, and for other news and live stats, visit www.FSUBroncos.com.