When it comes to college basketball in Cumberland County, this community has plenty to celebrate.
Fayetteville State University fans are still basking in the Broncos’ 65-62 victory over Virginia Union on Feb. 26, when FSU men's basketball claimed its first Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association title since 1973.
Under coach Luke D’Alessio - and led by Jalen Seegars’ 15 points - the Broncos, 21-8, earned a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
There’s excitement along Murchison Road.
There’s excitement over on Hull Road, too, where Brian Hurd is preparing his Fayetteville Technical Community College team for its showdown with Florida Gateway for the Division II South Atlantic District B Tournament and a berth in the National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament.
“I am extremely proud of these young men and the body of work they have put in to get us to this point and love the fact that we are still fortunate to be playing in March,” says Hurd, 43, head coach at FTCC since 2016. “The game with Florida Gateway will definitely be a challenge, however, but it is a challenge we welcome as we try to win the South Atlantic District Championship on Saturday and take this program to the nationals for the first time in school history.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the March F. Riddle gymnasium at Methodist University.
FTCC is 20-9. Florida Gateway, based in Lake City, Florida, is 15-9.
“The guys we brought in this year are young and have not had a lot of experience at championship level basketball, but they play extremely hard and this has been the best defensive team I have had,” Hurd says. “We also play for each other every day and love being a part of building the first 20-win season here.”
Leading the Trojans are Chance Minott, a 6-foot, second-year point guard; Adam Carey, a 6-3, second-year guard out of Millbrook High School in Raleigh; Jeremee Bryant, a 6-5, second-year guard; Michael Okoye, a 6-8, 220-pound center-forward; and team captain George Jones, a 6-3 guard and second-team all-conference selection.
Minott averages 9.9 points per game. Carey averages 7.8 points per game. Bryant averages 12.4 points per game and 6.1 rebounds. Okoye averages 6.2 points and six rebounds per game; and Jones averages 12.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
A former assistant coach at Central Carolina Community College in Sanford, Hurd was hired as the FTCC men’s basketball coach in 2016, the year FTCC developed an athletic program at the school. It was a slow beginning for Hurd that first season with only five victories. But with a cast of dedicated assistant coaches, Hurd began building the men’s basketball program “brick by brick,” and the Trojans won 18 games in the 2017-18 season.
“I have been blessed with all my assistants across my six years here,” Hurd says. Now, FTCC has the NJCAA men’s basketball crown within its grasp. But first, there is Florida Gateway in its path.
“I first and foremost want to thank God for all of our many blessings,” Hurd says, “and we will work extremely hard Saturday to make Dr. (Larry) Keen (the school president) and the entire Fayetteville Tech family proud.”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.