Spartans favored to win league basketball title

Fred Jeter | 11/3/2022, 6 p.m.
Norfolk State University has been picked to “three-peat” this season as MEAC basketball champ.

Norfolk State University has been picked to “three-peat” this season as MEAC basketball champ.

Receiving 11 of 12 first-place votes from a panel of coaches and sports publicists, the Spartans are top-heavy favorites to win the league title for a third straight year.

NSU has 12 returning players, including 2022 MEAC Player of Year Joe Bryant, from last season’s 24-7, NCAA Big Dance qualifying outfit.

Joining Bryant (from Norfolk’s Lake Taylor High) on the preseason All-MEAC first team is graduate student Kris Bankston. Redshirt senior Dana Tate Jr. was named to the third team.

Now a fifth-year senior, Bryant averaged 16.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals last year while also ranking among the nation’s top free throw shooters at 91.5 percent. He was BoxToRow HBCU Player of Year.

Joining the veterans is highly touted 6-foot-4 freshman George Beale from King’s Fork high in Suffolk.

Averaging 23 points per game, Beale was first-team All-State last winter while leading King’s Fork to the State Class 4 semifinals (losing to eventual champ Varina).

Coach Robert Jones’ Spartans open Nov. 7 at home against Virginia University of Lynchburg.

The Green & Gold will be seriously tested No. 11 at Baylor University in Waco, Tex., and Nov. 14 at UCLA. Another top attraction will be Dec. 3 at crosstown rival Old Dominion.

Following NSU in the MEAC poll is North Carolina Central (one first place vote), Howard, Morgan State, Coppin State and Maryland-Eastern Shore.

The road to the MEAC title runs through Norfolk, literally. The MEAC tournament will be March 8-11 at Norfolk Scope.