Age of enlightenment about HBCUs
Once you are exposed to the HBCU experience you can be enlightened pretty quickly. I did an interview with former NBA player Andre Miller who was recently blown away after attending the CIAA Tournament and an NCCU-NCAT matchup. At the behest of his godbrother, he spent eight days in North Carolina this spring and had an eye-opening experience.
“Coming from the West Coast we don’t get that a lot. I had a great experience, I’ll put it in my top five-ten experiences as far as environment, a lot of people don’t know about that. I enjoyed myself. It was live, it was exciting,” Miller said about his trip to North Carolina Central University.
Miller was so impressed with his experience that he says he know wants to coach at an HBCU. If he follows through with his dream he would follow in the footsteps of other modern day NBA players. Darrell Walker and George Lynch both started their college coaching careers at Clark Atlanta University. Lindsey Hunter took over recently at Mississippi Valley State University while Juan Dixon has been navigating the ropes at Coppin State University.
Back to bias
Some people get the HBCU Culture while others don’t. One of Wade’s close friends, Chris Paul doesn’t need an introduction. He grew up with Winston-Salem State University as a backdrop to his life and has contributed financially and physically to both WSSU and North Carolina A&T.
Paul also utilizes his social media platform to display HBCU merchandise as he enters arenas (and now the bubble) to play his games. Despite playing collegiality at Wake Forest he speaks life to HBCUs in his daily walk.
Let’s fast forward to one day when Paul’s playing career is over and maybe he is a part of an NBA front office or ownership group. For argument’s sake let’s also pretend the same for Wade. Can you see a difference between the implicit bias of those two that might exist when deciding on a player who attended a PWI versus an HBCU? It’s basic human nature that we all bring to the table. Now multiply that by every single team in the NBA. It comes into play when decisions are made.
How it really goes down
If you are a guaranteed star, it doesn’t matter where you went to school. When you get down to roster spots 8-12 it’s a little different game. One current HBCU basketball coach told me that NBA scouts and general managers often take the easy route when it comes to signing players. It’s an easier sell to invest money into a player who averaged nine points at an ACC school than it is to invest in a kid who averaged 16 in the SWAC. Because if the ACC kid flakes out it must have been something inherently wrong with the kid. However, if the SWAC or the MEAC kid flakes out, it was a lapse in judgment for taking a shot on “that” kid from “that” conference in the first place.
In simpler terms, the kids from the blue blood programs have to prove they really can’t play to drop off the NBA radar, while an HBCU product has to prove that he can really, really, play to get put on. Does this sound like a familiar piece of American history?
Ready for takeoff
There is a seat of power within HBCUs that can support the arrival of NBA level talent on its campus. LeVelle Moton at NCCU isn’t going to let anyone hijack the culture of his program. Robert Jones will make it work at Norfolk State University. Johnny Jones has been to the rodeo before. Mo Williams is not going to be in awe of any recruit at Alabama State University. Robert McCullum has quickly and quietly built a winner at FAMU. Give him a few recruits and let’s have a real FAMU versus Florida State game.
It’s 2020, and just when you thought you’ve seen it all, hell freezes over with one more icicle. Surely the thought of young open-minded athletes flipping the landscape of college basketball can’t be that far fetched. At least for open-minded people.