The Howard Men’s Basketball team hosted a “State of the Program” Town Hall via Zoom on Oct. 6. The team held the meeting geared towards informing Howard alumni on what’s to come regarding new sponsorship deals, current players and, most of all, wanting to be more connected with the alums.
“Let’s build. Let’s get to know each other, get to know these amazing players and people, and let’s make this thing really unique and special,” Kenneth Blakeney, head coach of Howard Men’s Basketball, said.
The zoom call was filled with over 100 men’s basketball alumni, general Howard alumni and Bison fans. Daniel Marks, new chief program strategist for the team, was able to talk to the alumni about why he would leave working in an NBA front office to come to Howard.
“I was not looking to leave the Milwaukee Bucks after spending my entire professional career there, but after getting connected to Coach Blakeney and hearing his vision for Howard Basketball, I knew I wanted to be part of it. There is tremendous potential here and I’m excited to help Coach Blakeney realize it,” Marks said.
The meeting kicked off with Blakeney speaking on the lack of alum interaction with the team during his three years at Howard.
“There’s been a disconnect because of the turnover at head coach here at Howard, and you know, right, wrong, or indifferent, we haven’t done a great job of staying in touch with our alumni. So that’s been something that I’ve wanted to make a priority,” Blakeney said.
Among the alumni in attendance was former player Damon Collins, who played for Howard from 2013-2017. He asked Blakeney how he and other alums could get further involved with the team.
“What’s the best way that we can connect with the players besides coming to games and things like that,” Collins said. “I know many of my friends and former teammates are looking to get together and really try to build the brand, build what you guys have done.”
Blakeney then assured Collins, and the other alums that just coming back and visiting the campus to support the program would be enough.
“Come to a game, stop by the office, get to know our program a little bit more intimately, get to know our players, follow us, see what we’re doing, that’s the first step. You know, and I think once that happens, we can kind of organically develop those relationships and see where they go from there,” Blakeney said.
The current players were then able to introduce themselves. While the team is bringing in a few new transfers and freshmen, one familiar face who remains is Steve Settle III, who has been on the team since Blakeney’s first year in 2019. Settle III has seen the turnover of the program since Blakeney arrived and knows he wants them, and the university to succeed.
“I think it says a lot about how our staff has put us in the best positions at all times. That’s one thing I can say about Coach Blake, is he’s always put us in a positive light and is always pushing us,” Settle III said.
The players also touched on how they were able to take part in multiple events at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference last week. Jelani Williams, a grad transfer from Penn, talked about how they could network with influential people while also working on a social justice project, which was to educate and advocate around the issues of Roe v. Wade.
“Mostly young black men, we have black mothers, grandmothers, nieces, also black female friends. We wanted to highlight and impact in a positive way. And then to be able to visit the Congressional Black Caucus was really informative and we were able to rub elbows and network some of the most important people in our country and just learn a lot about how our country works,” Williams said.
In preparation for the season, the team knows they are facing higher expectations than they’ve experienced. Blakeney wants the team to remember to take the journey day by day. “It’s just to get better today. You know, can we win the day? I don’t want to get too far ahead and not have our sights on the present, and the present is, can we get better today,” said Blakeney.
However, these expectations, coupled with new renovations to the basketball facility, including a naming rights deal with Nuna Baby for a new floor means the team can’t help setting the bar even higher for themselves
“Why can’t we make runs to the Final Four? You know that that’s my vision. I think, with our partners, with their support, with their resources, with our infrastructure now being more developed, we have an opportunity to put those things in place,” said Blakeney.
Bison Madness will tip off Homecoming week on Oct, 17 at 7 p.m. while the team will host an open scrimmage that Saturday the 22 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Burr Gymnasium before the team’s first exhibition game Oct. 25 against Bowie State.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith [Correction: This article previously referred to the Nuna Baby company as “Luna,” this error has since been updated to reflect the company name accurately.]