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Friday, June 14, 2024

WSSU job drawing interest as Cleo Hill Jr. exits

WINSTON-SALEM, NC —  While WSSU looks for its next men’s basketball head coach, it said farewell to Cleo Hill Jr.

Cleo Hill Jr. was surprised with a couple dozen well-wishers at C.E. Gaines Center on Thursday afternoon. He was presented with gifts and a special video looking back at his six years at his parent’s alma mater. Hill spoke briefly, thanking administrators, coaches and supporters as he prepared to head to the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. 

“I think it didn’t seem like work because as a family and Ramily — I felt all of us were pulling together for the same common cause,” Hill reflected. “Whether it’s winning in basketball, volleyball and softball, it just felt like everybody, for the most part, was on the same page. And that’s something that, I’m truly gonna miss.”

As Cleo Hill Jr. heads up to Division I to take on one of college basketball’s toughest jobs, his long-time friend and assistant Eric Wilson is hoping he can land the gig.  

“I want to coach at Winston-Salem State,” said Wilson, who was named interim head coach following Hill’s announced departure. “We built something really special. And I want to keep it going. I know the conference. I know the coaches. I pretty much know everything about the CIAA that there is to know from our time here. Coach Hill afforded me and Coach Beck to do a lot of things, within the program. And from him doing that really helped me a really well helped me more or less for this position.”

Paul Davis is Winston-Salem State’s all-time leading shot-blocker. He’s currently head coach for Bluefield State University’s women’s program.

WSSU AD Etienne Thomas says she plans on making a permanent hire for the position. The job is posted online and is set to close on Friday. Former UNC star David Noel and former North Carolina A&T head coach Will Jones have reportedly both expressed interest in the job. WSSU alumni Paul Davis — currently the women’s head basketball coach at Bluefield State — and Shaw University assistant WyKevin Bazemore are expected to be in the mix as well. 

Hill told the crowd he thought it would be in the best interest of the program to hire Wilson as his successor. 

Eric Wilson, Cleo Hill, WSSUEric Wilson, Cleo Hill, WSSU
Eric Wilson helped rebuild WSSU basketball under Cleo Hill over the last five seasons.

“Things that we built here, the championships that you see on the screen right now —  It will probably be the best thing and very nice —  if we did continue that with a coach like Ricky Wilson,” Hill said. “I think he has learned the conference. He’s learned Division II. He’s passionate about HBCUs, passionate about student athletes. I think that will continue what we built since 2018. 

Wilson was a part of the WSSU staff since Hill arrived at 601 S. MLK Dr. in 2018. He helped carry the program to 90 wins and two CIAA championships over that span. 

“I like to tell people that we built the house. I’m not going to tear the house down. I’m going to add some additions to the house. I might put some new paint on the house, but the structures is there. We built a great structure, a great foundation. And I’m just going to improve on that.”

WSSU job drawing interest as Cleo Hill Jr. exits

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