The Howard men’s basketball team is currently 4 -1 in conference play and first in the MEAC in margin of victory heading into their matchup against North Carolina Central University, which will be televised on ESPNU. NCCU has a 52.9 winning percentage compared to Howard’s 54.5 percent, so it should be a competitive game at least on paper.
The team is 8-2 since Dec. 18, when they beat Harvard. It seems as if the team is playing with a different kind of spirit than they were in the beginning of the season. This fire is translating into the ability to collect big wire to wire wins, while also being able to come out on top of close games.
Kenneth Blakeney, coach of the Howard men’s basketball team, believes that they have a group of great young men, which has contributed to their success on the court.
“You know, there’s a really famous baseball coach at Vanderbilt, and he was kind enough to give us a lot of his time on Zoom one day, and the big thing he talked about is that in order to build a great team, you have to build great young men,” Blakeney said. “I think the investment that our guys have made this year, both in the classroom, in the community, in their growth and development as young men, has really helped us improve as a basketball program, and it’s made us connected in a way that helps build seasons that can possibly be special”
Another critical factor to the team’s success of late has been the breakout season for freshman forward Shyheim Odom. Over the last ten games, Odom has been averaging 12.6 points while grabbing 4.0 boards and being named MEAC Rookie of the Week five times. Odom feels honored to be able to make such a massive impact in his first year, especially at a university with so much rich tradition in the Black community.
“It feels good to be a freshman with success in our league. I’m just glad that the work that I put in is showing results. It’s also an honor to play for a university with so much history behind it. Knowing all the black people of power now that walked the same halls we do is amazing and something I don’t take for granted,” Odom said.
Marcus Dockery is another new addition to the team this year, transferring to Howard from the University of Maryland. Dockery has been able to impact the team this year with the consistency of his three-point shooting (42.5 percent on 4.4 attempts a game).
Not only do Dockery and Odom get it done in the gym, but they make sure to take care of business outside of the court. This backs Coach Blakeney’s stance that having great players with amazing character in everyday life will translate to them getting wins in Burr.
“To those guys’ credit, they’ve done the work. I go again to that one thing you need to build a great team; you gotta have great people! I think Marcus had a 3.0 GPA this semester in the classroom. Shyheim had a 3.2. We have guys that have really jumped in and added to the chemistry, and helped make the chemistry what it is now,” Blakeney said.
With the end goal of the Howard men’s basketball team’s season being to become MEAC champions and earn a trip to March Madness – the team knows they have a long road ahead of them. Odom and Dockery look to continue to put in work every day with their teammates, while also continuing to bring their unique contributions to the team in order to reach that end goal.
“I think the new additions such as me and Marcus add life and excitement to our games with his shooting ability and my athleticism,” Odom said. “We can make sure to keep up our success by putting in work together every day and believing in ourselves and our teammates. It’s all about trust when it comes to championship teams.”
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee