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VUU, VSU revving up for Freedom Classic matchup Saturday

Fred Jeter | 1/18/2019, 6 a.m.
Virginia Union University’s basketball season has been given a jumpstart. When the Panthers trek to Ettrick on Saturday to play ...

24th Annual Freedom Classic Festival

When: Saturday, Jan. 19

Where: Virginia State University Multi-Purpose Center in Ettrick

Time: 4 p.m., doors open

6 p.m., Women’s game — Virginia State University (8-6 overall, 2-3 CIAA) vs. Virginia Union University (13-1 overall, 4-1 CIAA)

8 p.m., Men’s game — VSU (13-3 overall, 4-0 CIAA) vs. VUU (7-7 overall, 4-1 CIAA)

• Records through games of Jan. 14

Terrell Leach

Terrell Leach

Cyonte Melvin

Cyonte Melvin

Ifunanya Okoye

Ifunanya Okoye

Chrissana Green

Chrissana Green

Virginia Union University’s basketball season has been given a jumpstart.

When the Panthers trek to Ettrick on Saturday to play Virginia State University in the Freedom Classic, VUU will have new vroom under the hood.

Terrell Leach, who didn’t figure into the preseason analysis, figures to have much to say about how the campaign will finish.

Leach is a 24-year-old native of High Point, N.C., who most recently played the 2015-16 season at Winston-Salem State University. The 6-foot shooting guard is a jaw-dropping talent with a glossy résumé — albeit one with a layer of dust.

In his first three games since becoming eligible, Leach, wearing the No. 0 jersey, has averaged 19.3 points in about 31 minutes per game, with a high of 31 points in VUU’s game on the road against Shaw University in North Carolina. A threat from distance, Leach has hit 10 of 22 3-pointers and 14 of 19 free throws, with three steals and three assists.

Leach is far from just a shooter. He’s also a phenomenal leaper, capable of a full menu of theatrical dunks.

As a senior at Southwest Guilford High School in High Point, N.C., in 2013, Leach averaged 30 points per game while being selected North Carolina Player of the Year for his classification. He scored 54 points in one game against Western Guilford High School in Greensboro, N.C.

In 28 games as a freshman and sophomore at Winston-Salem State, Leach averaged 13.5 points.

He was suspended from the university and took a job assembling bus seats at a factory in Thomasville, N.C.

VUU Coach Jay Butler contacted Leach via Facebook prior to last semester and convinced him to enroll at the Richmond institution on Lombardy Street. He will have one more season of eligibility following this campaign.

Demarius Pitts, a pacesetter for CIAA Rookie of the Year, averages 16 points while 6-foot-7 junior Will Jenkins averages 15 points and nine rebounds.

Quicksilver point guard Jemal Smith averages seven points and leads with 83 assists and 35 steals. 

VUU is hopeful of peaking again at the CIAA Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., which starts Feb. 25. Last year, Coach Butler guided the Panthers to their first CIAA title since 2006. 

 VSU Coach Lonnie Blow’s surging Trojans are 13-3, but only four points from being 15-0. The losses, all in November, were by 59-58 to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown; 69-67 to Indiana University of Pennsylvania; and 87-86 to King University in Tennessee.

The balanced Trojans are led by Jahmere Howze with 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. Cyonte Melvin collects 12 points and four rebounds per game and is a stellar defensive player on the perimeter.