Hampton Comes Alive

By - October 12, 2006

First-year coach Kevin Nickelberry spoke like a visionary during a one-on-one interview on the future of Hampton basketball.

"I am excited to start a journey that I hope will end with me, the president and our fans walking out that front door, looking at USA Today and seeing us in the Top 25. That’s my goal," Nickelberry said. "I’m here to win championships."

The ebullient Maryland native inherits a team that finished sixth in the MEAC -- an even 16-16 overall -- before running the table in the conference tournament to advance to the NCAAs. Nickelberry believes that postseason success is a very real possibility for a conference that has traditionally pumped out No. 15 and No. 16 seeds.

"I’m excited about the opportunity for excellence at Hampton," Nickelberry said. "I think the president has an unbelievable desire to win, I think that’s the No. 1 thing — that you have an administration to want to win. He’s given me the things necessary to put this team in the position to be the Bucknell, to be the Holy Cross, to be the George Mason. That’s my goal."

Nickelberry, a Virginia Wesleyan grad, is enthusiastic about a group of incoming recruits which he half-jokingly refered to as "better than Hampton."

"We have two kids who signed with high-majors coming out of high school," Nickelberry continued. "We’ve got Mike Freeman who had signed with University of Southern California. I was able to persuade him that we can make this happen here. Matt Pilgrim visited us, Cincinnati and Saint Louis.

"I’m here to build a program and not just a good team. I want sustained success. I’ve learned from some great guys -- Oliver Purnell, Ralph Willard and Bobby Lutz know how to build programs."

Hampton will take center stage when the Eagles travel to Maryland on Nov. 7 for the very first game of the college basketball season -- the opening round of the 2K Sports Hoops Classic.

"We had some success against them when I was at Clemson; we beat them the last two years I was there. Gary Williams is a great coach and they have a very experienced team coming back," Nickelberry said. "I’m from Maryland, so for me to come home as the head coach is exciting. It’s a chance for me to introduce the Frantic Forty, the new face of Hampton basketball, to America.”

The Frantic Forty, for the unacquainted, is the coach's desired identity for Hampton basketball -- described as an “up-tempo, in-your-face, aggressive, attacking style.”

Posted by at 03:54 PM on October 12, 2006

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