HAMPTON (WAVY) – No matter the season or the circumstance, Ed Joyner has always preached “championship.”
Three times, his Hampton Pirates basketball team made the NCAA Tournament as MEAC Tournament champions. Last year, his team capped its 22nd, and final season in the MEAC with an appearance in the title game, though they fell short to North Carolina Central.
These days, their conference may be different, but the standard has never changed. “If it has changed, aint nobody told me, or told us,” said Joyner.
His Pirates (10-13, 5-5 in Big South) are adjusting to life in their new home, which tends to be a little more rough and roudy than the fast-paced MEAC. “It’s a lot more physical than what we’ve been accustomed to in the MEAC,” said Joyner.
“Last year, we may be in a game where it’s 40 free throws. We’ve been in some games (this year) where it’s hard to get to ten.”
Not to mention, a new conference means adjusting to new teams and new players. Joyner’s team knew every year meant 14 non-league games before starting conference play.
This year, he says it feels more like playing 31 non-conference games.
“Last year, we’ll play a team in the MEAC, and we’ll kind of know who their best player was from last year. Now we’re in a conference where we don’t know any of these guys,” said Jermaine Marrow.
Marrow is Hampton’s “head of state,” as Joyner put it.
The junior from Newport News (Heritage High School) is the sixth-best scorer in the nation, averaging over 24 points per game. The only reason he’s not leading the Big South in scoring is because the player ahead of him, Campbell’s Chris Clemons, happens to be nation’s top scorer (29 points per game).
“I stay in the gym 24-7,” said Marrow. “The work that I put in is showing….My coach let’s me be the player that I want to be.
Hampton knows exactly where where it wants to be. Though they’ve taken a fighter’s punch as the new kids on the block, the Pirates believe they have a chance to go dancing again.
“We’re in this to try and win a championship. and we’re in this to compete for a championship,” said Joyner. “If that changes, then somebody let me know soon.”