New coaches bring new energy to MEAC league

 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Sports Odds & Ends

All but one of the 16 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) men’s and women’s basketball clubs will open their 2022-23 season on November 7. South Carolina State women will open on November 8.

The league announced last Thursday during its virtual media day, attended by the MSR, its preseason best player, 1st-2nd-3rd all-MEAC teams and predicted order of finish for both MBB and WBB, voted by the conference head coaches and sports information directors.

Howard (WBB) and Norfolk State (MBB) are picked to finish first, respectively.

The Howard women’s team made history earlier this year by advancing in the NCAAs for the first time in school history, a four-point victory over Incarnate Word before losing big to eventual champions South Carolina (79-21). HC Tiesha “Ty” Grace, hired in 2015, led HU to its first MEAC Tournament title since 2001. 

Grace was named to the 2022 Achieving Coaching Excellence (ACE) College Basketball Honor Roll as well as the tournament’s most outstanding coach in the inaugural First Four last spring. “The next step will be to win the next [NCAA] game,” admitted Grace. “Once you make it, you want to continue to propel, get to the next step.”

For Jason Crafton it’s about receiving respect from the so-called basketball experts. “Last year we were picked dead last in the country by Sports Illustrated,” said the Maryland Eastern Shore men’s coach, now in his fourth season, “ranking everybody in the country from Gonzaga number one to Maryland Eastern Shore last.” His Hawks this season are picked to finish sixth in the MEAC.

Maryland Eastern Shore WBB Coach Jason Crafton
Courtesy of MES

“Now it’s about making that next step,” he pointed out. “We brought back some good talent.”

Not unlike other all-Black conferences, the MEAC is an afterthought by non-HBCU folk. But don’t tell this to the proud coaches and their fans across the league.

“It’s a testament to the coaches that we have in the league that are bringing in great talent,” continued Crafton. “You get a nice new crop of young coaches that have come in to lead. So, it’s an infusion of new coaches that are bringing some new energy in terms of racing the pedigree of the league.”

The MEAC is “way better than advertised,” said Ed Davis, Jr., the Morgan State WBB HC. “[The] coaches can coach in this league. The teams are good.”

He pointed out that until the typical basketball folk correctly see the league through non-elitist eyes, especially when NCAA selections are made, he afraid nothing will change “until the MEAC gets someone at the table,” said Davis, “sitting at the table in that room when they’re making the seedings.”

Howard Head Basketball Coaches Ty Grace (left) and Kevin Blakeney
Courtesy of Howard

South Carolina State is picked at the bottom of the conference [men’s] or near the bottom [women’s]. The two Bulldogs squads also have new coaches at the helm this season.

“What we want to do is make sure we build culture,” said WBB Coach Tim Eatman.

MBB Coach Erik Martin added, “I’m just trying to lay down the foundation for my program, and I want to build culture. I want to be someone that no matter who we play, we’re gonna learn to play hard and we’re gonna compete.”

“We’re excited for the season,” said Coppin State Men’s Coach Juan Dixon.

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