March Madness: Cheney’s Don Staley jersey means a lot to Alicia Mosley’s coaching team

Cheney University women’s basketball coach Alicia Mosley was doing some chores on a Sunday afternoon when she heard her phone ring.

A friend texted Mosley to turn her TV on. Don Staley, the legendary undefeated South Carolina coach, wore Cheyney’s jersey on the sideline during the gameThe Gamecocks won the NCAA Tournament in the second round over South Florida.

“I think, ‘What?“Mosley told Yahoo Sports. I put the game on my phone and zoomed in a little bit. I’m like, “Okay, Down shakes Cheney University!”

Cheyney, the nation’s oldest HBCU, is located just over 30 miles west of Staley’s hometown, Philadelphia. The aging gymnasium was once home to dominant women’s and men’s basketball teams led by coaches C.J. Vivian Stringer and John Chaney.

In 1982, Stringer’s team participated in its first-ever NCAA Women’s Tournament, advancing all the way to the national title game before falling to #1-ranked Louisiana Tech. Cheyney remains the only HBCU to reach the women’s or men’s Final Four, let alone the title game.

blue and white no. 44 Cheyney wears a Staley jersey on Sunday that belongs to Yolanda Laney, mother New York Liberty stand out Bethany Laney and one of the stars of the Cheney team in 1982. Yolanda coached Laney Staley in the Philadelphia Youth League and became close to it, According to a Philadelphia Inquirer story from last year.

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley wears a Cheney University jersey during the Gamecocks’ second-round NCAA Women’s Tournament victory over South Florida on March 19, 2023, in Columbia, South Carolina. (Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports)

While Staley may have worn the jersey as a tribute to her friend and in honor of a forgotten piece of Philadelphia basketball history, the gesture also means a lot to Cheyney’s current players and coaches. Mosley said she sent a text message to all the recruits on Sunday afternoon and said, “Are you watching the game? Do you see what Dawn is wearing?”

“It means a lot,” Mosley said. “When you get to the level that I’m at, you have an opportunity to shine a spotlight on people who need it. I feel like it’s shining a light on us now.”

This ray of light has a special meaning to Cheyney because of what her athletic department holds. In 2018, the cash-strapped university withdrew from its league, dropped its NCAA Division II designation and suspended many of its athletic programs. Women’s basketball survived the initial cut, only to go on a two-year hiatus as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moseley, a North Carolina native, came to Cheney this past March after serving as the men’s and women’s assistant coach at Division II Lincoln University. Cheyney’s history appealed to Mosley, as did the opportunity to run her own program for the first time.

While Cheyney went 2-10 in Moseley’s debut season playing against a host of Division III and community college opponents, the first-year coach envisions returning the program to its former heights. Moseley encourages Philadelphia-area recruits who visit Cheney to look at the signs on the rafters and award cases filled with memorabilia.

“This is a big part of our recruiting strategy,” Mosley said. “All I’m trying to do now is bring awareness to what Cheyney was and could be.”

There is no better way to draw attention to Cheyney’s glorious past than what Staley did on Sunday. Mosley said players and recruits were amazed to see someone of Staley’s stature wearing Cheyney’s blue and white.

“How many other coaches will wear another school’s jersey while playing in the NCAA Tournament?” Mosley said. “I appreciate her keeping our history alive.”

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