By: Larry C. Bowers of the Cleveland Daily Banner
Banner Photo, Larry C. Bowers.
Cleveland State Community College athletics were well represented at Thursday's Cleveland Kiwanis Club luncheon at the Elks Lodge downtown.
Athletic Director Mike Policastro was a guest, and brought along men's basketball Coach Lee Cigliano and new Women's Basketball Coach Evelyn Thompson.
Cigliano and Thompson provided Kiwanis members with an update of their respective programs, touching on this year's successes and challenges.
Cigliano has been directing the Cougar hoops program for 22 seasons. He had a number of longtime friends and acquaintances in the Kiwanis audience, and opened the presentation, providing Kiwanis members with a trio of stories he says exemplify his career at CSCC, and his 12 winning seasons.
He is also proud of the fact 40 former Cougars have gone on to play at four-year colleges.
"I look out and see several people I've known for years, including Charlie Cogdill and Hugh Walker," he said. Cogdill and Walker are former CSCC coaches.
"I've enjoyed my years at Cleveland State, because athletics are so important in our local society.
He related a few tales from his career.
He said he had one athlete who had arrived in this country from Africa, with tremendous athletic potential. He got the young man into school and classes, and help him find an apartment with local veterinarian Dr. Jim Lane, a Kiwanian at Thursday's luncheon.
Cigliano said Lane called him about long distance calls the young man had made on Lane's telephone in the preceding month. The calls totaled $9,000, and cut short the athlete's stay.
Another story concerned a young man from Northwest Whitfield (Ga.), who came to CSCC as a freshman. The player's father suffered a sudden heart attack and died, and Coach Cigliano had to break the news.
He said the young player returned to school, finished the season and made three game-winning shots. He also played his sophomore year, and his now a contributing citizen in his home community.
The third and final story was of a young man from Chattanooga, Demetrius Morgan, who he discovered at a recreation center. He came to CSCC and averaged more than 20 points a game, but wanted to drop out
He stayed after the young man, who eventually became a Junior College All-American then attended Lee University, earing honors there.
"These are the type of stories that help me in my job," said Cigliano.
Thompson said she is still getting accustomed to her new position, and the young ladies on her team. "We started out with 12, but now we have an elite eight," she recounted.
Thompson said she had planned on taking this year off, away from basketball, but it didn't turn out that way. She said she received a call from Jim Davis, former Roane State and Clemson coach, who informed her about the opportunity at Cleveland State.
"I've always said I wouldn't be a coach, or a teacher, and now I'm doing both," she told the Kiwanians.
She related that her team is 13-9 on the season, and 8-7 in the Tennessee Junior College League. She then related some statistics for the young women on her roster.
She said there are three facets to her coaching philosophy: Culture, Mantra, and Goals.
"We're trying to build a culture," she related. "We want personal excellence in our students athletes. "I've been stopped by people, who praise our young ladies."
She added that the team's mantra is accountability and a desire for teamwork and playing together. Thompson says her theme is, ""I am my sister's keeper, and I keep her well."
The new coach of the Lady Cougars said her main goal is that her players come in as girls, but leave as young women.
Asked what her greatest challenge is, Thompson was quick to say, "the budget."
In providing a comparison, she said Walters State (in Morristown/Hamblen County) can provide housing and a greater budget, adding, "But they don't have me!"
She predicted the Lady Cougars will build a winning program, through culture, mantra, and accomplishing goals.
In other Kiwanis business:
• Kay Smith reminded her fellow Kiwanis of the 4-H Club Public Speaking competition Friday, and the county finals in two weeks. The Kiwanis Club provides judges.
• Jeff Miller gave club members some welcome news from last week's annual Jute Miller Classic Rook Tournament, which raised $3,750 for the club's youth programs.
The tournament is held each year, the week following the Super Bowl. "This year was a best ever," Miller said in expressing appreciation to sponsors Cracker Barrel and Buffalo Wild Wings.