The Eastern Mennonite University men’s basketball team won’t be facing just a national power at home Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The Royals will host a Randolph-Macon program that has a rich hoop history — with several former coaches at the Division I level — and continues to be the Cadillac of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
But Melvin Felix, the second-year coach of EMU, knows beating the Yellow Jackets is possible. The Royals upset Randolph-Macon in the ODAC tourney in 2018 when the Yellow Jackets were the top seed and EMU was at No. 9. Felix was an assistant then under former head coach Kirby Dean.
The current Yellow Jackets are 13-1 overall, 5-0 in the ODAC and ranked No. 6 in the country this week by d3hoops.com. EMU is 3-11, 1-4 and has lost all seven games at home.
“We are prepared for this game,” Felix said Tuesday night. “We have played enough top 25 teams already. This should not be new for us. If we play our brand of basketball we should be fine.”
The Royals played an exhibition game Nov. 2 at Division I James Madison and lost just 80-65. Since then EMU has lost to three teams ranked nationally at one point in Division III: Marietta, Guilford, and Wittenberg, rated No. 2 this week.
The Royals do have a little momentum.
EMU standout DJ Hill was named the ODAC player of the week Monday and is averaging 12.9 points per contest. That comes after the junior from Woodbridge missed four games earlier in the season due to “academic reasons,” according to Felix.
“That was my choice to do that,” Felix said of the four games Hill had to miss. “He is maturing and learning from the situation he was in. I am really proud of him for the week he had.”
Hill, who had the game-winning shot last week at Shenandoah, said he learned from the contests he missed. “I had to take care of things that were more important. I told my teammates it wouldn’t happen again,” he said.
Another key player for EMU is junior guard Tim Jones, averaging 15.1 points per contest.
Fort Defiance graduate Josh Whelan, a 6-foot-9 junior center for EMU, is scoring 7.1 points per game. Whelan, like many of his teammates, has assorted bumps and bruises. “He is well enough to play,” Felix said.
Randolph-Macon, based in Ashland, is led in scoring by junior guard and preseason All-American Buzz Anthony (15.1 points per contest), freshman forward Miles Mallory (13.0) and freshman guard Josh Talbert, scoring 11 points per contest.
“The ball, 90 percent of the time, will be in his hands,” Hill said of Anthony. “We just have to dial in and pay attention to detail. We just have to be on-task.”
Former Randolph-Macon assistant or head coaches now at the Division I level include Mike Rhoades (VCU), Gregg Marshall (Wichita State) and Nathan Davis (Bucknell).
The current coach is Josh Merkel, a former assistant at Division I Eastern Kentucky and a graduate of Division III Salisbury in Maryland.