Penn State Wilkes-Barre wins USCAA Division II men’s basketball national title

Team members walking into the gymnasium

Members of the campus community excitedly welcome the Penn State Wilkes-Barre men's basketball team into the gymnasium.

Credit: Penn State

DALLAS, Pa. — The final game in the USCAA (United States Collegiate Athletic Association) Division II National Championship took place on March 16, with the Penn State Wilkes-Barre men's basketball team as the No. 1 seed. The Mountain Lions defeated Penn State Greater Allegheny and Kent State Tuscarawas earlier in the week. Their opponent on the Virginia State University court was Miami-Hamilton, which held the third seat. 

Scoring started with senior Anthony Picott (Newport News, Virginia/Hampton Roads Academy), who sank a 3-point shot less than one minute into the game and continued to dominate on the court for the remainder of the matchup against Miami-Hamilton. The Mountain Lions maintained a steady lead for a good portion of the first half, but the Harriers fought back. Allen Ozojie (Union, New Jersey/Brookdale C.C.) managed to fit an impressive dunk in the last few seconds of the first half, making the score 27-22 Miami-Hamilton. 

After halftime, the Mountain Lions made up for the five-point deficit. Tying the score 35-35 with 14 minutes left in the second half, Wilkes-Barre kept the lead for the rest of the game after senior Jaymes Jackson (Brooklyn, New York/Herkimer C.C.) made a layup. Scoring stayed tight, but with five seconds left to go,  junior Jalen Willis (Baltimore, Maryland/Genesse C.C.) made a layup to solidify a 55-50 win and national championship title for Wilkes-Barre. 

This win marks the second time Head Coach LeShawn Hammett has led the team to a USCAA national win. Penn State Wilkes-Barre men's basketball earned its first USCAA Division II title in 2019 after defeating Johnson & Wales, 86-64.

"It's an amazing feeling. I still can't fully put it into words, but I'm humbled," said Hammett. "To be able to do it once is a blessing but twice is surreal. The guys gave us everything this trip and all year they exceeded our expectations. So happy to have our seniors graduate in style and the rest of the guys achieve this once-in-a-lifetime goal. To be able to envision national championships and to bring them back to Wilkes-Barre is amazing." 

Top scorers of the game were Picott with 23 points, Ozojie with 12 points, and Jackson with eight points. For the season, the team posted a 15-4 record in the conference and 24-8 overall. 

"So many emotions going through my mind, from being the No. 2 seed last year and losing in the elite 8 to now being the No. 1 seed this year and winning, knowing I won it in front of my home state and my father for my final college game is a special feeling I can't explain," said Picott, when asked how it felt to win the championship in the last game of his college career.

A celebration with the campus community was held in Penn State Wilkes-Barre's Athletic and Recreation Building on March 22. The event included an entrance by the team and coaches, speeches, a ceremonial net cutting, ball signing, lunch and photo opportunities. Members of the local media attended, capturing this historic occasion for the campus.