Nazim Trammell-Wells | Contributing Writer
This upcoming season for Hampton University will be a interesting one.
Last season, the Pirates finished with the top record in the MEAC at 21-11 (13-3 in conference), won the MEAC Tournament with a 81-69 victory over South Carolina State and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament against the University of Virginia. Hampton topped the MEAC in several categories including scoring offense (73.8 ppg) and offensive and defensive rebounds (14.0 and 27.3, respectively, per game), as well ranked in the top-5 in blocked shots, assists, and three pointers made per game.
After back to back MEAC titles and NCAA Tournament appearances, there is one word that head coach Edward “Buck” Joyner says is the big difference between this year and last year’s teams: experience. “The lack of game experience in some situations and understanding of games that every player has to go through will be biggest difference between this year and last year.”
Coach Joyner understands that this team’s chemistry will take time to build after coaching players who played multiple seasons together the last few seasons but he is up for the task. “We’re young so I have to take some of the things that we did well last year and see if it fits this year’s team and try to progress,” coach Joyner expressed. “I might have to teach a bit different or spend more time on X’s and O’s and help them [understand[ other things, to help myself grow and to help this team grow.”
This year’s team contains three upperclassmen and an abundance of sophomores and freshmen and the task to help them grow won’t be left just for the coaching staff. Key returning player graduate student Lawrence Cooks will also have to help out in that department. Cooks, a 6’1’’ guard who averaged around 8 ppg last season, is the only returning starter and will have to take on the job of leading this team on the floor and he has coach Joyner’s vote of confidence.
“He has to lead us physically and emotionally. We’re going to lean on him for a lot but I believe he is up for the task. He is a very self confident guy and I think it will show this year; his true talent will show outside of the role he had for us last year that really made us successful,” said coach Joyner.
Cooks may be in the role of leader but, as far production goes, he will not be alone. Coach Joyner is excited for the newcomers who are set to make a big impact right away on the court. Freshman Jermaine Marrow, a 6’ guard out of Newport News, VA, averaged 31 points for Heritage High School and coach Joyner says they will lean on him a lot.
Coach Joyner also expects big things to come from freshmen players point guard Jaekwon Carlyle from Imhotep Charter in Philadelphia and small forward Trey Carver from North Eastern High School in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Unfortunately, both Carlyle and Carver are currently inactive due to injuries and there is no slated timetable for their return.
Despite the changes, coach Joyner believes that this year’s squad will be a fun one that will resonate particularly with Hampton’s large underclassmen body but with Hampton basketball fans at-large. These young Pirates have big shoes to fill and Hampton Nation only has to wait until November 3rd to be introduced to them at “Hype Night” in Holland Hall at 7 p.m. and, on November 11th, they will finally have a chance to see them in action against Rider University.
Fans throughout Hampton Roads and the country will be watching this team to see if they have what it takes to make this season a three-peat.