The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association inducted 10 new members into the John B. McClendon Jr. CIAA Hall of Fame on Friday, including Abraham Mitchell, affectionately known as “Mr. CIAA” to many who attend the annual CIAA Basketball Tournament.
Mitchell, a native of Suffolk, Virginia, garnered that moniker for his longstanding practice of attending the annual tournament with an ensemble of self-made clothing, which he displays for fans by parading through the stands while games are underway. Mitchell has been known to change outfits numerous times during a single game. He has been doing that now for more than 30 years, and the tournament has given him a private dressing room, complete with a guard.
Shortly after Friday’s induction ceremony, I caught up with Mitchell for 5 quick questions:
Q. How does it feel to now be in the CIAA Hall of Fame?
It was an honor and just so much pleasure being accepted into it. Everyone is just so friendly and excited because I was inducted. Everyone said I deserved it years before now, but I appreciate what they did for me. I get a joy out of being Mr. CIAA. I don’t find no enemies.
Q. How many outfits did you bring to the tournament this year?
Twenty-seven. Not that I will use all 27, but I do have 27. It depends on how many I do per game and how many times I’m stopped (by fans). I have to work with time in order to change. I definitely change into the school colors (when teams are playing) and I wear miscellaneous colors during other times.
Q. Do you really make all of your outfits?
The ones I don’t make, I design them. So far, as long as I’ve been coming, I’ve never seen anybody wear what I wore. My mother was a seamstress, and I started designing myself for CIAA, something different each time I come. Like what I had on (today) before I changed. You would have loved that. I had it in gold.
Q. How many outfits do you think you have at home?
Ahh! About three or four hundred, I guess. I can go three years without wearing the same thing. My nephew told me to start getting rid of some of the things I have because I don’t use all of them. I do give away a lot during the year, and I don’t miss it.
Q. How old are you now?
I don’t never tell my age. I just say I’m old.
Other inductees were:
Ronald “Flip” Murray: Joined the Shaw University men’s basketball team in 2000 and quickly became the school’s single-season record holder in points, steals assists, points per game and free throws made. He finished his senior year averaging 23.5 points per game and 6.2 assists.
Torry Woodbury: A Winston-Salem State football walk-on in 1997 who earned his spot as a four-year starter. He finished his career as the Rams’ all-time leading passer, completing 287 of 648 attempts for 4,493 years and 38 touchdowns.
Earl “Air” Harvey: Played quarterback at North Carolina Central. In 1985, he became the fist rookie in NCAA history to throw for more than 3,000 yards.
Arthur “Boo Boo” Gaskins: Played basketball for Elizabeth City State. In 1978 he averaged 26.1 points per game, ranking him the leading scorer in the CIAA and among the top five in NCAA Division II.
Mark Sherrill: Played basketball at Johnson C. Smith University, where he has also been an assistant coach for the past 21 years. During the 1990-1991 season, he averaged 25.8 points per game.
Ingrid Wicker-McCree: A two-sports coach at North Carolina Central who received numerous accolades as an administrator. She became the school’s first coach to win conference championships in numerous sports, capturing the school’s first CIAA titles in softball (1998) and volleyball (1999, 2004 and 2005).
Andre Springs: Entered Fayetteville State in 1978 and became the first freshman to win the CIAA Golf Championship. After graduation, he entered a mini-tour and later became golf coach at Livingstone College.
Dianthia Ford-Kee: Earned a business degree from Fayetteville State and later joined Shaw University has head volleyball and softball coach. She currently serves as athletic director at Mississippi Valley State University.
Edward MLean: Upon his retirement, he was the CIAA’s longest-tenured athletic director. In 1993 he became athletic director at Elizabeth City State, where he stayed for 13 years. He added another seven years as athletic director at Fayetteville State. The Broncos won at least one CIAA title in each of his years there.