Howard University News Service
Howard sports has found success again; the men’s basketball team is the latest headline. For the first time in 31 years, Howard men’s basketball is going to the NCAA tournament.
Howard held a send-off Tuesday afternoon outside Cramton Auditorium to celebrate Coach Kenny Blakeney and his team as they prepare to travel to Iowa to take on the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the first round.
The crowd danced spontaneously and smiles on the faces of administrators, players and students could be seen from afar, creating a vibrant atmosphere of Howard faithful. Some fans had difficulty putting their smiles into words due to the overwhelming joy.
Michael Walker, a sophomore civil engineering major, math and business administration minor from Prince George’s County, Maryland, couldn’t believe what he was witnessing.
“It is crazy. We are making history,” Walker said. “We have a tough matchup, but I have no doubt we can be a Cinderella.”
Akin to Walker, junior starting forward Steve Settle acknowledges his team’s joy about winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but knows his team can also bust brackets.
“We are feeling good, but we also understand this group is capable of much more,” Settle said. “We have the group to do something special, and we will continue to trust the work we have put in.”
The team persevering despite a demanding schedule makes Howard athletics director Kery Davis proud.
“This has been an incredible journey,” Davis said. “Many people saw me crying when we won [MEAC], and they ask where the tears came from, and it came from knowing what these young men go through to get to this point.”
“We don’t skip classes, and they still get up in the morning and practice. So to go through that journey and to overcome those obstacles, I’m most proud of that.” – Joshua Heron
‘On the Sidelines Screaming’
As students crowded around in anticipation of the players’ arrival and news reporters stood anxiously for the perfect quote, members of Howard’s cheerleading team and marching band were getting ready to board a roughly 16-hour bus ride to Des Moines, Iowa, to continue to support the team with cheers, dances and tunes from the sidelines.
“The last game was really incredible. It was nerve-wracking the whole time,” said Maya Higginbotham, senior psychology student and Howard cheerleader. “We were literally on the sidelines screaming. I lost my voice after the game.”
“I am proud of them, ‘cause you could tell they really put the work in for that win, and I’m very excited. I’ve never been to a March Madness game, like ever. So the fact that I get to cheer at one is a big deal. You know? And it’s a really big deal for the men’s team especially ‘cause it’s been 20, 30 years since they’ve been.”
Jaelon Dixon, one of the members of Howard’s marching band, recalls Howard’s one-point win against Norfolk State this past Saturday as he looks forward to attending their first game of the national tournament.
“It was exciting, like it was real close,” Dixon said. “They kept going back and forth up until the last minute, and it was really cool to see them win. I’m excited to do this and go to the NCAA.” – Chrisleen Herard
‘It’s a Good Feeling’
Players made their way through the crowd of students, community members, university officials and journalists from local news stations as they loaded the bus that will start their journey to the “Big Dance” to face the defending NCAA national champions, the Kansas Jayhawks.
Howard University is used to defying the odds this season after beating Norfolk State, the two-time defending champions in the 2023 MEAC Tournament last week. Team Forward William Settles felt the energy from all who came out to wish the team well before their trip.
“It’s a good feeling,” Settles said. “We know that we have the support of the community behind us, and to see everyone come out and support just like they’ve been doing all year is a great feeling.”
Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick beamed alongside university leaders like Director of Athletics Kery Davis and HUSA President Jordan Allen as they braved the windy conditions to show their support. Student ambassadors like Allen will attend the upcoming game at the Wells Fargo Center in Des Moines, Iowa.
We can’t wait to see our team #BleedBlue.”
“We wish them the best of luck,” Allen said. “We are so excited to get to be a part of this, and we can’t wait to see our team #BleedBlue.”
Kalyn Philips, a member of the Howard University Cheerleading Team is still recovering from their performance last weekend with the basketball team as they won the 2023 MEAC Championship. She says that although this is a venue that none of them have experienced before, you can count on seeing the auxiliary teams in their signature Howard uniforms.
“I am excited to make sure the boys get there and hopefully cheer them on to victory,” Philips said. “We’re going against the No. 1 seed, so we want to really give them an upset and beat Kansas.”
Quinn Buckley plays the snare drum for the Showtime Marching Band and says that he is ready to play his funky beats in Iowa for the big tournament game.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. We’re gonna go crazy. I can’t even sleep right now,” Buckley continued as he let out a loud “H-U” to the other members of the band who responded with a roaring, “You Know!” – Aaliyah Seabrooks
‘We’re Just Really Excited to Celebrate History’
“Champion” by Kanye West echoed through Howard’s campus today as the university celebrated its most recent basketball victory. Students, faculty and anyone who could hear the celebration gathered around to send the team off to compete in March Madness. In the crowd, a group of Howard freshmen showed up in red and blue, excited to cheer on the Bison.
“We’re just really excited to be celebrating our basketball team,” said Zianna Baxton, a freshman from Chicago. “We know that it’s the first time that they’ve been in March Madness since 1992, so we’re just really excited to celebrate history.”
“And it just really shows that we can compete at a high level,” said freshman Ariana Seldon, a self-proclaimed super fan.
Alina Patton, a freshman from Kansas City was especially excited to wish the Bison luck.
“We don’t really see a lot of HBCUs go to March Madness,” Patton said. “KU is from my home city, so I really want [Howard] to win, do their best and put their best foot forward, and represent all HBCUs and Howard the best way that they can.”
“H-U!” yelled someone in the crowd. “You know!” responded Patton and friends.
“Don’t forget who you are,” said freshman Kenndy Riley to the Bison as they boarded the bus. “You’re young, Black, beautiful. Continue to do what you’re doing.”
“And you know what wins games?” responded Seldon. “It’s not the offense or the defense. It’s truly the heart, and the game isn’t over until you say it’s over.”
Click here to listen. – Olivia Green
The Bison Who Saw It From Start to Finish
Kii Lacroix and Chaney Morgan were unassuming spectators at today’s rally, but as videographers for the men’s basketball team, they’ve had first-hand access to their journey to MEAC champions. The sophomore journalism majors emphasized how the team views management as family and a major part of their success.
“Their energy difference from their first practice to last night’s practice shows a huge difference, like you can tell how hard they’ve worked for this,” said Lacroix of Boca Raton, Florida. “And we can see the difference from the beginning of the season to now, it’s so cool.”
“I definitely wish we documented the season more because I did envision them going far but seeing it is different ,” said Chaney, of Charlotte, North Carolina. She describes the moment as “surreal,” and the alumni excitement is reflected in her frequent communication about the team with her father who graduated from Howard. – LeAnne Roberts
‘Who’s Doing It Like Howard?
With WHUR disk jockeys playing music, fans cheering and laughing with one another, excitement was definitely in the air as the Howard community gathered to wish the men’s basketball team well and send the players off to the NCAA tournament. Being happy for the team is considered an understatement being that this is Howard’s first time competing in the NCAA in over 30 years.
The NCAA can not only expect the men’s basketball team, but they can also expect the Howard University Showtime Marching Band to be close behind. Band member Asaad Martin spoke about his excitement for the tournament and the huge opportunity this moment serves for the university as a whole.
“[The basketball team] worked really hard last week at the MEAC and just seeing everything at the tournament will be great,” Martin says.
“I’m a basketball manager for the team, and I am very excited for them,” said freshman Kendall Thompson. “It’s history breaking for them to play [University of Kansas].”
Band member Dontrell Allen also shared his excitement and says he is simply happy to support the team. “This is a really big achievement,” Allen exclaimed. “I mean who is doing it like Howard? This is fun, and I can’t wait to support them.” – Katelyn Barker
We belong here.
This is our destiny.
This is what we play for.
2pm EST on @TBSNetwork vs @KUHoops . The @MarchMadnessMBB journey begins.
BISON NATION, LET’S SHOW THE WORLD WHAT @HowardU IS ABOUT!!https://t.co/nQrWBfu4OR pic.twitter.com/LM2fxkNjUT
— Howard Men’s Basketball (@HUMensBB) March 16, 2023
A Historic Moment That Deserves a Big Bison Sendoff
The significance of Howard preparing to go toe to toe against the University of Kansas Jayhawks brought out the basketball team’s peers and supporters for a “Big Bison” sendoff to their first NCAA tournament in three decades.
The rally consisted of a DJ and a gaggle of reporters and photographers to document the historic moment. As the crowd waited for the basketball players to make their way to the buses in front of Cramton Auditorium, the cheerleaders and Showtime band members walked around receiving congratulations and well wishes from their supporters.
One bandmate, Quinn Buckley, spoke about his excitement. “It’s just really building the excitement,” he said. “I was excited already, but seeing this, the whole travel party, I know it’s going to be a great time.”
Cheers echoed across the courtyard as the teammates walked through the makeshift tunnel formed by the crowd. – MeKayla Pierre
‘Let’s Bring It Home!’ HU’s Basketball Team Is ‘Going Dancing’ for the NCAA Tournament
After bringing a ‘W’ home from the MEAC Championship, Howard University’s Mens’ Basketball Team will be “going dancing” at the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1992.
Fellow classmates, faculty, parents and supporters gathered outside Cramton Auditorium to celebrate the team’s journey to the promised land once again after over 30 years.
“When I came here in 2020 during COVID-19, the team wasn’t as good as it is now, nor had as many opportunities that they do now,” said Kobe Kegler, a junior civil engineering major from southern Maryland.
Kegler, who is campaigning to become the 47th Mister Howard, wanted to honor and salute the team for a job well done and best representing their school. “To see their improvement every year, consistently, and to see them get to this point has been quite a journey. I know they’re proud of what they’ve accomplished so far.”
With March Madness tensions high and more than a little pressure on their backs, HU’s bread and butter strutted through the lines of supporters with nothing but glee on their faces and cheerful words of encouragement.
“Let’s bring it home!” said forward Ayodele Taiwo, while carrying his luggage to the bus. The audience matched his energy, cheering and clapping to show their pride in their home team. – Janee Jenkins
Men’s Basketball NCAA Send-Off Leaves Bison “Elated”
Morale flooded through Howard University’s campus on Tuesday as Bison rallied to congratulate the men’s basketball team for their acceleration to the NCAA Tournament.
At 1:30 p.m., students, faculty, and sports aficionados congregated outside of Cramton Auditorium to bid adieu to the MEAC Conference winners, as they journey to the NCAA tournament in Des Moines, Iowa.
Howard University student Mecca Moore is one of the many Bison accompanying the men’s basketball team for their first NCAA tournament since 1992. Moore, a freshman undecided major, is a member of the university’s prestigious marching band – “Showtime.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the boys do well,” Moore exclaimed, pausing from capturing her excitement through a celebratory TikTok with other band members.
Wayne A. I. Frederick, the university’s president, is also feeling optimistic about the team’s venture in the nationally televised tournament. When asked to identify one word to describe his sentiment about the team’s success, the president pondered for a moment, and confidently proclaimed “elation.”
“I’m extremely elated that they get an opportunity to go showcase their talent on a national level, and obviously, they have our full support, so we’re gonna shock the world and go be the No. 1 team,” affirmed Frederick, fueled by the high energy of the Bison surrounding him. – Kynadi Hyde
‘An Opportunity to Do Something Special’
Despite the windy air, Howard students, faculty, staff and more gathered to give a proper sendoff to the men’s basketball team as well as congratulating and greeting the players.
No. 5 guard Jelani Williams scored the victory for Howard to advance to the tournament with a pair of free throws with a score of 65-64 during their game against the Norfolk State Spartans on Saturday.
“It’s amazing. We’ve been talking about it all year, an opportunity to do something special, to do something that hasn’t been done here in 30 years,” Williams said. “This is the culmination of all of that. It’s been a great week. We got some work to do, but we’re super grateful for moments like this.”
No. 10 guard Talin Lewis also expressed what the historic win means to the team.
“For the first time in 31 years, we made it,” Lewis said. “We dreamed about this before the season, and we made it a reality. So, it means a lot to us. We love each other.”
Student workers in the athletic department were also part of the crowd of supporters.
“It’s an amazing feeling, especially because we’re looked at as the underdogs right now because we’re an HBCU,” said junior Alanis Baluyot McNeal, a media manager for the team. “To come back after 30 years and win this title is really important to everybody. And, it’s really special to me to be a part of it.”
Junior LaNiya Vargas, another manager for the team, said that “just seeing all their hard work finally paying off just makes me happy and very proud.”
Other attendees included Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick and Vice President Cynthia Evers.
“We are incredibly proud of our students,” Evers said. “This is an experience of a lifetime. And, they are prepared.”
“One thing I like about our sports teams is that they are concerned about the holistic development of the student. It’s not just about their athletic ability and competition, which is very important, but also the whole community service and academics, which is the most priority.” – Jason Ponterotto