In the backdrop of this weekend’s NCAA Tournament Final Four in Houston, another game will be played that will also carry great significance to its players on the floor.
The HBCU All-Star Game, featuring 24 of the top players in Black College Basketball, has rolled into town for its second-ever showcase game. The All-Star Game will be played at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 2 at Texas Southern University’s H&PE Arena.
It’s a culmination of a vision founder and former HBCU basketball coach Travis Williams has had to provide players who are often overshadowed with a platform and stage to show their talents.
“To be able to do this in this space and in this moment in history is truly exciting to let individuals know we have some of the best brands of basketball and that our HBCUs matter in this space,” Williams said. “The important message in all of this is we are getting to be able to provide this platform where otherwise we haven’t had it or our HBCUs don’t get that national recognition or the buzz.”
This is the second HBCU All-Star Game after Williams debuted it with great success during last year’s Final Four in New Orleans. The game is played the same weekend and in the same city as the Final Four to maximize exposure so that the players can participate in an event most have only seen on their televisions.
Additionally, CBS is a partner of HBCU All-Star and will broadcast the game and pregame live on Sunday. In addition to the game there will be some social outreach, panel discussions, seminars and a Black College fair as part of the weekend.
“That’s the natural tie,” Williams said of playing it in the backdrop of the Final Four. “That’s what is so historical about it, is we’ve never had presence. It was a vision that is long overdue.”
A total of 66 HBCU players will be in town for the weekend, which will also feature a Pro Day with scouts from the NBA and International leagues in to observe workouts, from 49 schools, representing the SWAC, MEAC, CIAA, SIAC and Independents Tennessee State, Hampton and North Carolina A&T.
Each team will feature 12 players on each side, with Prairie View leading scorer Will Douglas and Texas Southern seniors Joirdon Karl Nicholas and John Walker all playing for Team Willis Reed. Players from the SWAC and CIAA will compete for Team Willis Reed while Team Dick
Barnett is comprised of MEAC, SIAC and three Independent HBCUs.
Howard’s Kenneth Blakeney and Virginia Union’s Jay Butler will serve as the head coaches.
Williams says it was important to start the game after he realized that there is only one former HBCU player currently on an NBA roster, Los Angeles Clippers’ veteran forward Robert Covington, who played for Williams at Tennessee State. But 15 players are playing professionally overseas after playing in last year’s HBCU All-Star game.
“When I ask individuals how many HBCU players they think are in the NBA, they will say 10, 20
or 30,” Williams said. “When you say one, they can’t believe it. Being able to have this platform to get to showcase some of the best in Black College Basketball that wouldn’t otherwise get this type of exposure with our CBS Sports partnership and things of that nature.”
Williams says the players were selected after careful scouting throughout the season. The scouting continued through the beginning of March Madness and the conference tournaments. The top 24 players were named on March 13.
They landed in Houston this week and immediately started the process of preparing to play Sunday.
“The best reception is from the players and know we are helping them,” Williams said. “This is a lifetime memory for these players and coaches.”