NORFOLK, Va. – Things didn’t end the way they did in 2013 when Jeremy Underwood and Lamont Middleton were able to celebrate winning a MEAC tournament title, an NCAA tournament game and going up against eventual national champion Louisville.
Underwood and Middleton’s collegiate careers came to an end with a 53-47 loss to Howard Tuesday evening at the 2014 MEAC Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament at the Norfolk Scope Arena. Underwood leaves as one of the most durable players in school history, and Middleton was able to reach 1,000 points in only two years after transferring in from Wake Technical Community College. He is the only 1,000-point scorer to accomplish the feat in two years.
Middleton is also the only player in the Cy Alexander era that has started every game Alexander has coached at A&T.
“He has done a great job for this program, and he’s going to graduate,” said Middleton. “I commend him for making third-team all-conference. I wish he could have made first-team all-tournament. But he had a heckuva game tonight, and I wish him well with whatever lies ahead in the future.”
In two years, Middleton also had an impact on the Aggies record book. Middleton’s best asset as an Aggie was his ability to get to the free throw line. He owns the single-season school record for free throws made with 229, which are 69 more free throws than the former record held by Bruce Jenkins. He also has the single-season record for free throw attempts with 291, 43 more than the former record.
On Feb. 8, he broke the Aggies single-game record for free throws made (18) and free throw attempts (21). Middleton ended his career with 388 free throws, 518 free throw attempts and 1,016 points.
Underwood was the Aggies only four-year senior on the roster. He is second all-time on the Aggies participation list with 130 games played. Underwood got into foul trouble in the Aggies loss to Howard, which Alexander said had an affect on the game.
“You never want to sit your senior point guard in a game like this for a long period of time,” Alexander said. “But we couldn’t put him back in the game to risk getting his third foul in the first half. We still wanted to have three fouls to play with in the second half.”
Underwood had a significant impact as a reserve point guard for three years and a starter for one. His performance against Liberty helped A&T win their first-ever NCAA tournament as he finished with 19 points on 6-for-6 shooting. He ended his career ninth on A&T’s all-time assists list with 255.
Underwood and Middleton were a part of an Aggies team that won 20 games for the first time in a quarter of a century and they assisted in putting together the school’s first winning season since 1996-97 with a 20-17 record in 2012-13. But they are departing a team that went 9-23 in 2013-14, which leads to the question of where do the Aggies go from here?
Thirteen players are scheduled to be back in 2014-15, including Richaud Pack who has another year of eligibility as a fifth-year senior. Pack will be the top returning scorer at 17.0 points per game. Joining Pack as senior leaders will be Bryan Akinkugbe and Waylan Siverand. Siverand will be the only four-year senior on the roster. Rising junior Bruce Beckford is also back. He recorded four double-doubles this season, averaged in double figures in scoring (11.2) and led the Aggies in rebounding (7.4).
Another benefit for the Aggies was enormity of their 2013-14 recruiting class. It was so large in fact; Alexander decided to split it into two different classes. Freshmen James Whitaker, Nick Reese and Michael Reid sat out this season and will come into the 2014-15 season as redshirt freshmen. Whitaker is a 6-foot-5 shooter who could fill the void left by Middleton. Reese is a 6-7 versatile athlete who is a slasher and shooter. Reid will come in and compete with Michael Briscoe and Ahmad Abdullah for playing time at the point guard position.
The Aggies also signed Arturs Bremers, a 6-4 shooter out of Columbia State Community College. But where Alexander really wants to get better is in the post. If he can get more production from his power forward and center positions, it could lead to a return to the NCAA tournament, an experience Middleton and Underwood enjoyed before their careers ended.
“Other than Bruce Beckford, we didn’t know what we were going to get from our four and five positions on a nightly basis,” said Alexander. “We’re looking for somebody to step up over the summer and show they want to be the guy to produce for us next year. Our expectations are for our bigs to work hard during the offseason at getting better.”