Locals rock the rim at CIAA tourney

Published 2:40 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) held its 64th Annual Men’s basketball tournament and its 34th Women’s tournament Feb. 24 through March 1 in Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena.

The CIAA is the oldest African-American Conference; and ranks third behind the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Southeast Conference (SEC) in attendance.

This year’s theme was “Rock the Rim” which brought both Franklin and Southampton County resident back to the core of why they packed their suitcases and loaded their cameras and headed to the Queen City.

Franklin resident Roger Owens, a 32-year veteran as a volunteer men’s league basketball coach for Franklin Department of Parks and Recreation has been attending the tournament for nearly 30 years.

Owens remarked, “Initially I started going to support Norfolk State University; however, after they left the conference, I just kept going to cheer for the underdog.”

Owens also emphasized the importance of seeing old friends, the benefits of the scholarship money that goes back into the schools and seeing the players move on to the next level.

During the competition, I caught up with CIAA veteran, Lahoma Jones of Franklin, currently employed by the Defense Supply Center Richmond as a Supply Chain Point of Contact. Jones, a 1986 graduate of Franklin High School played for Virginia Union University from 1986 thru the 1990 seasons. She has continued to return each year since graduating. When asked why she returns, Jones spoke very freely about her experience as a player.

“I simply loved the competition, the history of the conference; getting to see players like Charles Oakley and Earl the Pearl Monroe and knowing that I was playing in the same tournaments that they had played in”.

She also spoke about the admiration she holds for her former high school coach Mona Sumblin: “If she knew you wanted to go to college she made it happen. Jones recalled how Sumblin took her and teammate, Jackie Artis, to try out for the only two slots left on VUU team. They both played their hearts out and were offered scholarships on the spot. She further commented that going to a CIAA school was one of the best things that could have happened to her. “It helped me to find myself and my place in the world, and contrary to popular belief, CIAA schools are not exclusive they are inclusive, they embrace all who enter”.

I also sat down with Janice Holeman, a 2008 graduate of Franklin High School and future conference player for Saint Augustine College in Raleigh, N.C., majoring in Psychology.

Janice gave us all quite a scare this past summer during pre-season workouts when she became severely dehydrated and lapsed into a coma. After a 10-day stay in the hospital, she was released with strict orders to rest and give her body time to fully re-hydrate. She credits her mother, Tracy, and her brother, James, with helping her get back on track. Although she had to sit out her first season she was still allowed to travel with her teammates to all of the games. During our discussion, Holeman commented on her experiences thus far: “The CIAA is one big family; it’s been amazing. I can’t believe how many friends I’ve met, you’re competitors on the court and back to being friends after the game”.

As with Jones, Holeman also recognizes the support of Coach Sumblin with helping to paving the way for her to get into college.

I am happy to report that she looks well and seemed to be extremely excited about school and playing in CIAA next year.

Other Franklin-Southampton fans in attendance included the Rev. Peggy Scott, Sylvia and Ernest Claud Jr., Mattie Gilliam, Audrey Knight, Victor Picot, Patrice Jones, Velma Holland, Joe Ingram, Rosa and Dallas Jones, Clarence Baker, Lionel and Gwen Blue, Roger Owens and Jacqueline Grant.

The CIAA has something to offer every fan at the tournament, whether it’s the sport of basketball, meeting up with old friends, star-gazing, shopping or interviewing for a new job, the choices are endless. With the continued enduring support of fans like the ones we have right here in the Franklin-Southampton community the conference will continue its mission of providing the best opportunities for student of today and tomorrow.