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Tears and cheers for CIAA Hall of Fame's 2020 inductee class
NCCU's Moton, VUU's English among honorees
Published Friday, February 28, 2020 6:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

The CIAA honored the 2020 John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame class Friday at the Charlotte Convention Center.

It is a new decade, but the CIAA legacy remains the same.

For former players and officials to current coaches, it was an emotional morning at the Charlotte Convention Center during the John B. McLendon Jr. CIAA Hall of Fame Breakfast. The 2020 class of inductees includes former players Livingstone’s Antonio Davis, Virginia Union’s Albert “A.J.” English, North Carolina Central’s LeVelle Moton, league official Leslie Speight and the 1983 Virginia Union women’s basketball team.

“As we go into this next decade of CIAA, the history that was made here today is now the new foundation, and people will be talking about the great A.J. English, the 1983 Virginia Union women’s basketball team, LeVelle Moton—it’s like a generation of conversation and dialogue,” CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said. “I’m talking about [Clarence] Big House Gaines and McLendon and Jeanette Lee. Those [names] will never go away. You have all of this addition of history that continues to grow, and this conference has the responsibility to tell those stories.”

When asked what being inducted into the CIAA Hall of Fame meant to him, Moton said “everything,” a response that had him in tears. Moton verbally committed to Michigan State coming out of high school, but when then-Central coach Greg Jackson came to his family’s apartment on a recruiting visit, the writing was on the wall.

“He sat down at our kitchen table, and he said, ‘I never recruited you because I never thought I had a chance, but I would love for you to attend North Carolina Central,’” Moton said. “I remember looking at my mom, and mom just looked me, and looked at the paper, and said ‘I just want you out of the projects.’ I may have been the first recruit ever to commit to a school without seeing the campus. I signed the scholarship at the table. I just remember praying to God, ‘please let me enjoy this place.’ It’s the best decision I ever made in my life.”

Moton played guard for the Eagles from 1992-96, earning CIAA Player of the Year his senior season, during which he averaged 21.3 points per game. While Moton played overseas after college, returning to Central was in his destiny. He joined the program as an assistant coach in 2007 and took over as head coach in 2009.

“I’ll run this team the way my grandmother ran her house, and she got two kids out of the projects during the crack era,” Moton said.

Virginia Union made history in 1983 with a 27-2 record and becoming the first CIAA women’s team to win the NCAA Division II women’s basketball championship, which started a year earlier with a 73-60 win against Cal Poly Pomona. Coach Louis Hearn died at age 73 in 2013, but his wife Andrea represented him during the induction. Through tears, she shared the team’s induction meant the world to both of them, because of what they poured into the players.

Davis led the nation in scoring his senior year, averaging 35 points per game in 1987-88. The All-American’s school record of 1,800 points was recently broken by Livingstone senior guard Roger Ray, who leaves the program with 1,995 points.

English, who played for Virginia Union from 1986-90, scored 2,396 points. He scored 1,001 his final year, a single-season school record and earned Division II National Player of the Year in 1990. Later that year, he was selected by the Washington Bullets in the second round of the NBA Draft, 37th overall. English wishes he stayed with the Bullets rather than leaving for Portland after two seasons.

“Once you reach your dream, you stay with your dream,” he said.

Speight spent 1983-2004 officiating basketball and football in the CIAA. He called everything from the league’s basketball tournament to the football championship game in addition to NFL games. Speight credits his success across all levels to his military background, where he was an ROTC administrator and non-commissioned officer for two decades.

“I didn’t have a doubt that I was going [to the NFL], because I had laid the groundwork,” Speight said. “That’s what I try to tell young officials now. It’s not easy getting into the NFL, because they don’t just look at your officiating. You can imagine being selected out of hundreds officials. There are a lot of good officials. You have to have something else. I think my military background took me there.”

The league’s hall of fame was renamed in 2000 in honor of McLendon, a founding father of the tournament. He coached North Carolina College, now NCCU, to an 88-44 win over Duke University’s medical team in 1944 in what’s believed to be the first game between white and black college teams in the South.

In addition to coaching at NCCU, Hampton and Tennessee State, McLendon became the first African American to coach a professional basketball team in 1959 when he coached the Cleveland Pipers in the National Industrial Basketball League. Twenty years later, he became the first coach from a historically black college inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

This story reflects a correction that John McClendon coached at Tennessee State.



Posted on March 1, 2020
Congratulations to the entire CIAA 2020 John B McLenden Hall of Fame class with particular focus on Leslie"Sarge"Speight (who epitomizes the highest aspects of leadership. God speed and continued success to you all.
Posted on March 1, 2020

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