|Winston-Salem State plays up to title aspirations|
|Published Thursday, February 7, 2013 8:11 am|
It’s not enough for Winston-Salem State basketball to be good.
|Winston-Salem State guard Justin Glover leads the Rams in scoring at 16 points per game. WSSU is ranked 16th in NCAA Division II, making the Rams the only CIAA program in the top 20.|
The Rams have to dominate, especially in the CIAA.
WSSU (16-4, 3-2 CIAA South) have the league’s best record and is the only CIAA school ranked in the top 20 in Division II (No. 16 as of last week). Accomplishments are expected, like the CIAA tournament championship last year in the Rams’ second season back in the league.
“We’re Winston-Salem State, so to be playing in front is what’s expected,” Rams coach Bobby Collins said. “It’s expected from our administration, it’s expected from myself but we understand all the rankings and all the winning records are good but we still know it’s all about those three games in March and making it to the national championship.”
WSSU has the ingredients to compete for postseason titles. The Rams have eight seniors on the 17-player roster and they’re familiar with Collins’ system and attention to detail.
“We’ve got a lot of returners, so we know what coach expects, how the game should be played, how fast it should be, how slow it should be,” said Justin Glover, the Rams’ top scorer at 16 points a game. “We just make adjustments every time and we’re in sync. We just get it together.”
“They just have a very strong command of what they’re trying to do,” Johnson C. Smith coach Steve Joyner said. “They don’t get rattled, they understand situations with the game – time score, the whole nine yards. I was very impressed with that.”
The Rams have been together long enough to become the CIAA’s standard-bearer three years after abandoning a transition to Division I. Two seasons ago, WSSU won the CIAA South but fell flat in the tournament. Last year the Rams won it all and an automatic berth in the Division II tournament. With depth, talent and experience, they’re looking to do more as Collins juggles minutes.
“It makes me look smart when they play up to my expectations, but it’s not easy,” he said. “…It’s more difficult coaching talent than it is guys without talent because everybody wants to play, so management is the biggest part of this team. As long as we have the right guys on the floor at the right time, keeping the guys on the bench somewhat happy…you have to play the best way you can and I have to do the best I can managing.”
That’s where on-court leadership has served the Rams. Younger players like sophomore forward WyKevin Bazemore and freshman Michel-Ofik Nzege can lean on the experience of seniors Kimani Hunt and Wakefield Ellison, an East Carolina transfer.
“All the returners try to be good leaders on the court,” said Glover, a senior guard. “The new guys, they listen to us with everything we’ve got to say and it works out.”
In order for it to work in 2013, the Rams will need to remain hungry and focused. The national attention has been beneficial, but Collins counsels his Rams that the league – especially the South – is competitive. Five teams in the division have plus-.500 records and WSSU has lost to upstarts St. Augustine’s and Livingstone while beating traditional powers JCSU and Shaw.
“We also remember getting knocked out in the first round of the CIAA, too,” Collins said. “So this team understands that this is good. We don’t even talk about being ranked nationally. We don’t talk about the winning streak we had. We know it’s one game at a time.”
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