Former Clark Atlanta University guard Jamal Pollydore isn’t in Kansas anymore. Actually he’s never played in Kansas, but last season the native New Yorker did play his college basketball in Atlanta and despite transferring following a successful junior season (10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds per game, 25 steals), he still has fond memories of his single season in the Atlanta University Center (AUC) and at the top of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).
“I remember the tough practice and the goals we had as a team,” said Pollydore of his former Panthers teammates and coaches by phone on Monday night. “We had goals and we weren’t losing games.”
Pollydore is exaggerating a bit. The Panthers lost six of their 30 games last season, the final two to SIAC opponent Claflin University in the conference tournament and in the first round of the Division II NCAA tournament. There is some truth to his “weren’t losing games” claim however, as the Panthers did go on a 15 game win streak last season that was broken by, guess who?
“I hated losing to Claflin three times though,” said Pollydore of one of his less than fond memories of his time in Atlanta. Claflin ended that win streak in Orangeburg on Feb. 5, 85-80. Pollydore did not have one his best games either, with 7 points on 3-7 shooting from the field. Nonetheless, he had a good time playing under current University of Arkansas-Little Rock head men’s basketball coach Darrell Walker and assistant coach Alfred Jordan, who recruited him to Atlanta.
“I had my fun but now it’s time to get serious and lock in,” said Pollydore of his new surroundings and impending senior season.
Let it be said that living in West Virginia is most certainly not like living on campus at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Atlanta.
“There’s nothing to do here but focus on school and basketball,” said Pollydore about attending school and playing his final year of college eligibility (He played his first two years at Niagara Community College (N.Y.) where he finished as a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American selection).
He’s at Glenville State College in Glenville, West Virginia, population ‘nowhere near Atlanta’ and despite his less than familiar surroundings, says he’s doing just fine. “I got away from the nightlife, parties and now all I have is 24 hour gym access,” said the 6’2 combo-guard. “I can focus more.”
The Pioneers play in the Mountain East Conference and are coached by Justin Caldwell, an alumnus of the school and someone Pollydore was familiar with during his JUCO days. “I went to a school to play for a coach who had already recruited me,” he said. “Coach Walker left [CAU] and I did not know who was going to be the new head coach.”
The new head coach would ultimately become former University of North Carolina and NBA player George Lynch but Pollydore’s mind was made up at that point. He did find time to make it to the press conference announcing Lynch as the new Panthers head coach however.
These days he’s busy getting prepared to graduate with a degree in Health Education, he’s on track to finish after this academic year. “I wanted to be able to graduate after four years,” said Pollydore.
Asked about the CAU/Morehouse rivalry he had the opportunity to play in twice in front of large crowds at L.S. Epps Gymnasium and Forbes Arena on the Morehouse College campus, Pollydore remembered, “Those were the biggest crowds I ever played in front of. It really was as good as advertised.”
The rivalries and no doubt the crowds, may change in West Virginia (The Pioneers do play Marshall University in an early season exhibition game in Huntington) but Pollydore’s mission hasn’t changed at all. “I’d like to win a conference championship, be an all-conference player and get back to the NCAA’s,” he says.
New school, new team, same old Jamal Pollydore, just a with a few geographical adjustments. “I’m glad I went to Clark Atlanta, I’m glad I had the experience.”