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Star Basketball Coach Digs Into His Past To Lift Up His Players: Meet LeVelle Moton

College basketball is part of North Carolina’s lifeblood, and team allegiances are not taken lightly. Yet the head coach of North Carolina Central University’s men’s basketball team is deeply respected by both those who wear the Eagles jersey and those who compete against it.LeVelle Moton led the NCCU men’s team to its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament Championship in 2014 and has carried the team to greatness many times over. But well before his success as a coach and his own basketball career, Moton was a kid growing up in a single-parent home in the projects in Boston and later a then-rough neighborhood outside downtown Raleigh. Gangs, shootings and violence were commonplace, but his family and community recognized Moton’s talent and helped him get a college degree.

Moton graduated from NCCU in 1996 as one of the school’s all-time star basketball players. He played professionally with the Seattle Supersonics and in Indonesia, Germany, Cyprus, and Israel before returning to North Carolina to pursue a coaching career. Host Frank Stasio speaks with LeVelle Moton about his life and legacy. 


On moving from the Orchard Park projects in Boston to Raleigh:
When we moved to Lane Street, the drug epidemic didn't hit down here as fast as it hit up North. So it was coming, but it was really a great place in terms of growing up. But once the drugs hit again, it became a community where every time you walked out of your home you were literally making a life or death decision.

On the impact of the crack epidemic on his neighborhood in Raleigh:
It was kinda the wild, Wild West in a sense. Now you're knocking on your friend’s door, and their mother's not looking the same because now they're strung out on the drugs. So I saw first hand what crack cocaine did to our community, as well as other drugs, and the violence, and the betrayal ... It took away the innocence of our neighborhood.

On turning down a well-paid offer to coach at Delaware State for a position coaching middle school basketball: 
Every decision I ever made I never made it for money, because I've been broke far longer than I had ever had a dime in the bank. So I understand the level of happiness and what true happiness is. And I always wanted to listen to my intuition. I felt like your intuition is listening to God's whispers … My intuition was just telling me: Take this middle school job for $200 a month for three months. And I did, and I never looked back. 

On his start as head men’s basketball coach at North Carolina Central University:
It was something I felt like I was qualified for, but I knew external individuals were saying: He’s too young. He didn't have any experience. Because I think I was the youngest coach in the nation at that time. And I just remember interviewing in front of the committee, and they said: Well, you don't have any experience. How are you going to run a program? You didn't have a coach that taught you the ropes. And I said: Look, I'm going to run my program the same way my mother and my grandmother ran their homes, with the same core values. And if I can make it out of those circumstances to this point, I'm sure those same core values can help us win championships and graduate kids and allow them to go out here in this world and be productive citizens. And I think that won them over because it was truth it was candid.

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Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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