OFFICIAL: Cleo Hill Jr. named head coach at Maryland Eastern Shore

Maryland Eastern Shore announced on Saturday the hiring of Cleo Hill Jr. as the Hawks’ new head men’s basketball coach. Hill has extensive D-II and HBCU experience, spending the last six years at Winston-Salem State (NC) and previously coaching at Cheyney (PA) and Shaw (NC).

“We are excited about the future of Hawk basketball as we welcome Cleo Hill, Jr. to UMES,” said AD Tara A. Owens. “During our national search, the hiring committee received an influx of interest from qualified candidates. After a thorough and timely review of each candidate, Coach Hill stood out as the right person to lead our men’s basketball program. Coach Hill has a proven track of building winning programs with success at Cheyney, Shaw and Winston-Salem State. He has a tremendous reputation as a coach and has a great vision for Hawk basketball. Under his leadership, we will continue to reach new heights of success on the court, in the classroom, and in the community.”

In Hill, UMES gets a coach with a ton of experience and a winning track record at similar institutions, albeit at the D-II level. Hill went 89-50 at WSSU, winning 18+ games in each of the last four seasons, and has an overall head coaching record of 261-204. He has been named CIAA Coach of the Year four times (twice at Shaw), won four CIAA titles and three CIAA Tournaments.

“I am ready for the opportunity to lead our men’s basketball program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore,” Hill said. “I appreciate the campus community, President Heidi M. Anderson, Vice President Tara Owens and the search committee for their efforts throughout the hiring process. My past experiences and success as well as my passion for building programs have prepared me for this next step in my coaching career. Our goal is to build Hawk basketball into a perennial championship contender while winning in the classroom and positively representing UMES in the community. I am enthusiastic about the future and look forward to developing a team that our alumni, student body and fans will be proud of.”

Hill replaces Jason Crafton, with whom the school parted ways earlier this year after four seasons at the helm. The Hawks went 18-13 in 2022-23, just their third above-.500 finish since moving up to Division I in 1981, but regressed this past season to 9-20 (4-10, 7th MEAC).

Originally from New Jersey, Hill was a standout player at Orange HS and then played at (then D-II) North Carolina Central, where he ranks among the school’s all-time leading career scorers. He has previous D-I experience from a stint on Danny Nee‘s staff at Nebraska (1998-2000), helping lead the Huskers to the NIT in 1999.

Hill’s father, the late Cleo Sr., was a 2017 inductee to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame for his standout career at Winston-Salem, and became the first-ever HBCU player to be drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft when the St. Louis Hawks picked him in 1961.


credit to Maryland Eastern Shore Athletics for the image