757 products key in Longwood basketball's historic trip to NCAA Tournament

Longwood basketball
Posted at 1:58 AM, Mar 15, 2022

FARMVILLE, Va. - In the town of Farmville, Virginia, there's a buzz unlike anything the area has experienced before.

The area is home to Longwood University and all the buzz is thanks to both the men's and women's basketball teams, which are each playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

"The whole town is behind us," men's guard and former Green Run High School standout DeShaun Wade said. "We just been all soaking up the moment, talking to each other, saying we're champs. It's just been great. The buzz is amazing around here."

"They basically shut down all of Main Street to greet us when we got back," women's guard and Deep Creek High School product Adriana Shipp said. "It was awesome. It's a surreal feeling. For someone who hasn't been part of that before, I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Among the Lancers who received an enthusiastic homecoming after winning the Big South Championship are a handful of 757 natives.

On the men's team: Virginia Beach's Wade and Michael Christmas, and Norfolk's Jaylani Darden.

On the women's team: Chesapeake's Shipp and Cayla Copeland, and Virginia Beach's Kyla McMakin.

"We're all trying to recruit from the 757 because the area is loaded with talent, especially for basketball," womens' head coach Rebecca Tillett said.

"We all kinda came up similarly," Christmas said about being raised in Hampton Roads." The area, we just breed successful individuals. I think that just kinda carried over here and that's how our mindset is."

Developing as a basketball player in the 757 is an experience each team's coaches lived through as well. Tillett played guard at William & Mary, and men's coach Griff Aldrich played at Norfolk Academy.

The two were each playing on Hampton Roads basketball courts in the '90s, and in a perfect twist of fate, now occupy Longwood's courts together while bringing a championship culture to the program.

"Incredibly special moment," Aldrich said. "Surreal, because when we got here at Longwood four years ago, the goal was really to try to start to build a program and build a championship program."

"For us to now be here at the same time as the men, when Griff and I were hired at the same time, in so many ways, how could you write the story any better."

"I think it's so cool to do it with both the men and the women," McMakin, an Ocean Lakes High School product said. "Two teams who work really hard and compete really hard. We're here in the summer, we're here winter break, we're here during spring break. There's no off time and I think that hard work ends up paying off."

"We don't let up for nothing, nobody," Christmas, a Landstown High School product, said. "Always gonna compete, always gonna give you our best."

On Selection Sunday, the men's team learned they'd have to bring their best to a matchup with Tennessee. The contest gets underway at 2:45 p.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile, the women were placed in a First Four matchup with Mount St. Mary's. That game is also played Thursday, and takes place at 7 p.m.

The Lancers have already made Farmville proud, but look to do it again when they make their first ever trips to the Big Dance.