NBA Deputy Commissioner Highlights HBCU Partnerships and All-Star Classic

Randall Brumant scored 22 points to help the Bison beat Morgan State University 91-82. The teams face off again in the NBA HBCU Classic during the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend in Cleveland. (Photo: David Sierra/Howard University)

By Maya Brown-Edwards

Howard University News Service

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum discussed the league’s growing role with HBCUs during a “Courtside Chat” with Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick on Wednesday as students, staff and faculty joined virtually.

The conversation, which included Debbi Jarvis, senior vice president of corporate relations at Howard, immediately delved into the university’s upcoming participation in the first NBA HBCU Classic, the NBA’s social justice efforts and its inaugural fellowship program.

For the second year, the NBA All-Star Weekend’s overarching theme is HBCUs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities. However, the league added the NBA HBCU Classic to the roster this year, and the Howard University Men’s Basketball team made the starting lineup.

The Howard Bison will take on the Morgan State Bears at 2 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Wolstein Center in downtown Cleveland. Presented by AT&T, the NBA HBCU Classic will be broadcast on TNT and ESPN2.

NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum, top left, participated in a “Courtside Chat” with Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick and Debbi Jarvis, senior vice president of corporate relations. (Photo: Maya Brown-Edwards/HUNS)

“It’s going to be on a global stage,” says Tatum, who is also chief operating officer of the National Basketball League. “It gives us the opportunity to showcase Howard University and Morgan State in one way through the basketball team and through something that’s endemic to us, the game of basketball.

“Putting that game on national TV, on TNT and ESPN 2, we’re really going to use All-Star Weekend to showcase and highlight the history of HBCUs, specifically HU here with Morgan State, and we’re so excited.” The NBA will be donating $100,000 to each school’s athletic department plus scholarships to two Howard and Morgan State University students.

Howard is 9-10 overall against Morgan State. In their last matchup on Jan. 22, Howard walked away with the win, 91-82. During the Courtside Chat, Steve Settle III, sophomore sports management major, introduced Tatum, who quickly followed up by praising the Bison forward and leading scorer in Tuesday’s 96-38 win over Gallaudet University. “Steve was 9 from 11 from the field yesterday with 21 points, so he lit it up last night and I know he’s going to be on fire as well at this game in Cleveland.”

HBCU alumni Stephanie Ready (Coppin State University) and Stephen A. Smith (Winston Salem State University) along with NBA 75th Anniversary Team member Isiah Thomas will host the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference matchup between the Bison and the Bears at the classic. Play-by-play announcer Brian Custer (Hampton University) will call the game with Brendan Haywood, and Taylor Rooks will be reporting from the sideline.

“For a long while, HBCUs have had the type of talent that deserves to be on that stage, or in the classroom and on the court, and I think that that’s the other thing that we’ll have the opportunity to celebrate as well through this game,” President Frederick said.

“Young men and women who have a larger mission in life but are certainly using basketball as an opportunity to display their talents to the world, and they tend to be pretty effective at what they do, as well. So, I think getting the rest of the world to see that, it’s a fantastic opportunity.”

Established in August 2020, following the death of George Floyd, the NBA Foundation strives to provide economic opportunity and empowerment in the Black community. “Each one of our [30 teams] put in $10 million each to establish this initial $300 million commitment,” Tatum said. “The foundation has awarded some nearly 80 grants totaling more than $22 million to create employment opportunities to further career advancement, and to drive greater economic empowerment of Black youth.”

The NBA HBCU Fellowship Program is in its inaugural year and will give students experience in the business of basketball with one of the 28 participating NBA teams.

“My biggest takeaway from today, I was just trying to learn and listen as much as I possibly could,” Settle said. “My path has not been as straight as others. It wasn’t easy to get where I’m at, and I still have a long way to go. Mr. Tatum’s path was not easy, and no one’s path is straight, but you have to stick with it and keep working.”

Maya Brown-Edwards is a reporter and regional bureau chief for HUNewsService.com.