New LOC head men’s basketball coach Bonzi Wells knows what he wants to see on the court: a team of tough and gritty players. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

by Liaudwin Seaberry Jr. —

With less than two weeks remaining until the start of the regular season for the LeMoyne-Owen Magicians men’s basketball team, new men’s head coach Bonzi Wells feels a new-found sense of confidence in his team.

The former NBA veteran and a former Memphis Grizzly, who was named head coach of the Magicians in early September, has injected his brand of basketball, while working to create an atmosphere in which his players exhibit a tough work ethic and pure grit on the court.

Known for being a gritty player during his professional career, Wells brings that same mentality into the coaching ranks. It’s a quality he takes pride in. 

“Some of the players may say that I am a little tough on them, and I may be, but the goal is to mold these players into the best quality players that they can be,” Wells said.

“We work too hard in practice for us to let anyone intimidate or scare us from our goals. We will be ready,” said LOC coach Bonzi Wells. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Wells will receive some important assistance in that quest from former Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, who will volunteer his time as an assistant coach for the Magicians. Hollins is the Grizzlies all-time winningest coach.

Due to COVID-19, LeMoyne-Owen College cancelled their 2020-21 basketball season. Only three players remain from the 2019-2020 basketball team.

Seniors Jaquan Lawrence and Antonio Anderson are appreciative and excited about the upcoming season. They have accepted the leadership roles for the team and are players Wells plans to lean on heavily. 

“When the new coaching staff came in, it took a little while to get adjusted to their way of doing things, and it all happened on the fly, but now I can say that we have settled in,” Anderson said.

Lawrence thinks that when the team fully buys in, they could be something special.

“With all the new players that came in, it’s taken a while for everything to come together, but when it happens, it will give us the chance to have a very good season,” Lawrence said.

Assistant coach Jerel Jernigan laughs when he recalls thinking about the growing pains that have occurred in the process of molding this team into a formidable squad. 

Things moved pretty quickly when the new staff came in and he understands how difficult it was for the Magicians to adjust and get to trust their new leaders on and off the court.

However, despite being only a month and a half into their time with LeMoyne-Owen College, Jernigan feels that he and other members of the coaching staff have slowly become close to their players. 

“It’s all about helping these players grow together and making sure that they’re ready for life, not just basketball,” Jernigan said. “Yes, us coaches want to establish a culture, but we want to do it the right way.”

Wells understands the challenges presented with being a first-time head coach of a college program. 

Coach Bonzi Wells: “The goal is to mold these players into the best quality players that they can be.” (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

With his team set to face off in an exhibition matchup against the University of Memphis Sunday (Oct. 24), he refuses to permit his squad to fear anyone, regardless of ranking, size or anything. (The Tigers are ranked 12th in the AP Top 25 College Basketball Poll.)

Wells’ confidence is legit and he wants his players to take pride in their performance. 

“Our guys are going to bring it to them,” Wells said.

“We work too hard in practice for us to let anyone intimidate or scare us from our goals. We will be ready.”

Getting the most out of practice. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)