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Howard partners with Nike to host a basketball camp for youth

For the first time since the pandemic, Howard University welcomes the nation’s top high school talent for a Nike-affiliated summer basketball program.

Howard men’s basketball team and elite camp participants gather in the center of Burr gymnasium. (Kira LaCroix/Media for the Howard men’s basketball team)

High school basketball talent from across the nation flooded inside Howard University’s Burr Gymnasium. 

The Howard men’s basketball team hosted its first Nike Elite Basketball Camp since before the coronavirus pandemic in 2019. The camp, co-hosted by Nike, was available to boys ages 14-19 from July 31 through Aug. 1. Campers were given a chance to gain exposure in front of the Bison staff and players while continuing to refine their skills on and off the court.

Kenneth Blakeney, head coach of the Howard men’s basketball team, believes this camp allowed the Bison to strengthen their connection to the basketball community.

“It’s an opportunity for us to connect with our community face-to-face, name to name, and build a hand-to-hand kind of relationship,” Blakeney said. “To have so many kids this summer that have attended our day camps from this area, but also from other parts of the country and even other countries, allows us to build great relationships with the basketball community.”

On day one after opening remarks from Blakeney, campers were split into six teams categorized by shirt color. Each team was coached by either a Howard men’s basketball student-athlete or a staff member. 

It was a special opportunity to see players like Jelani Williams, Bryce Harris, and Elijah Williams be able to affect the camp without actually having the step on the court and play. Elijah Williams, a graduate transfer currently playing for the Bison, was thrilled to help athletes in the same position he was in five years ago.

“It means a lot to have this opportunity to come out here, inspire the youth, help the youth. Some of these kids are trying to get to where me and my coworkers (teammates) are currently at. So as much as we can do to help them work on their games and just get better, I’m always happy to help,” Williams said.

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High school basketballers from across the nation get their playing time and practice on the court at Burr Gymnasium. (Branson Brooks/The Hilltop)

On-court action proceeded with the six teams competing in continuous 20-minute half-court five-on-five games. While watching, Blakeney keyed in on “kids with character, basketball IQ, and also toughness,” due to all these tools being at the top of the list of requirements to play for his men’s team. 

Once the half-court games concluded for the day, the campers were provided lunch before they had a group film session in the School of Business. During this session, campers learned more about the team’s style of play, and how they could implement things they saw into their games. Day one would conclude with the campers playing 30-minute full-court five-on-five games.

Day two went on with the same proceedings, except with the addition of an NBA/sports business presentation hosted by Daniel Marks, Howard men’s basketball’s chief program strategist. During the presentation, players asked Marks specific questions about basketball, ranging from NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals, what characteristics set great players apart, all the way to the idea of signing NBA contracts.

The camp would conclude with the Top Performer Showcase game, where 2 to 3 players from each team were selected due to their level of play at the camp. Predictably, the showcase game had an exhibition/streetball to it, with music playing in the background, and campers looking to perform highlight plays.

Top performers of the Elite Camp in their categorized shirt colors. (Kira LaCroix/Media /Howard men’s basketball team)

Mason Ellison, a 2025 guard for Loyola Bakersfield High School, was able to impress coaches with his display of athleticism and ability to score going to the rim and in the midrange. Ellison, knowing the legacy behind Howard University, was only motivated further to perform at his best.

“There’s a lot of history here, people that look like me that came here and did great things in the world. So it just feels good to be able to be here to come do something you love and work hard at it,” Ellison said.

As the event was the Bison’s first elite camp in years, the turnout and efficiency of it indicate the direction the program is heading in. The Bison can use this camp as another stepping stone to further integrate themselves as a team fans should follow within the basketball world.

Copy edited by Whitney Meritus

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