HBCU Roundball Experience provides UM with unique opportunity

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

When Michigan was piecing together its 2021-22 schedule, it could’ve scheduled another home game against another mid-major for its second contest.

Instead, coach Juwan Howard and the Wolverines signed up to play in the inaugural HBCU Roundball Experience against Prairie View A&M in Washington, D.C.

While the matchup might not be appealing on paper, there’s a greater purpose behind it. The game is being put on by Coaches vs. Racism, a national nonprofit aimed at using coaches to bring awareness to systematic racism, social injustice, equality and reform in sports and society.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard said it was a "no-brainer" to take part in the inaugural Coaches vs. Racism event.

The event will help showcase athletes at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) who are routinely overlooked by talent scouts and will raise money for marginalized students for college tuition.

More: UM hoops forward paid his own way over summer, now is paving the way

Given the opportunity to help call attention to social justice issues and promote HBCUs, Howard said it was an easy decision to jump on board.

“I thought it would be special for us to really go out and do what we can to help the HBCUs,” Howard said. “We looked at the resources that we have that the HBCUs do not have that, I saw that this would be a nice fundraiser to help in any way with any resources that they're lacking.

“We are very happy to be a part of this game. We're looking forward to the experience and we'll also do whatever we can to help grow it.”

Prairie View A&M coach Byron Smith also didn’t hesitate to participate, considering his program is located outside of George Floyd’s hometown of Houston.

“Basketball gives you a great platform to be able to send out messages and be a messenger,” Smith said. “Being an HBCU, we're well aware of a lot of the injustices and things that go on in our society.

“We thought it would be good for us to get involved, to get out and try to continue to share information and raise awareness that we are in a bit of a discriminatory environment. … I think the conversation should continue and we want to be advocates for change and agents for change and continue to talk about things and how we can make our society better.”

While the event will serve as a homecoming game for sophomore center Hunter Dickinson and sophomore forward Terrance Williams II, who both hail from the D.C. area, it will also serve as an educational trip for the Wolverines.

Before Saturday night’s game, the team will visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Friday. Howard said it’s important for his players to learn about the impact those before them are having “not just on the African American community but also people and life in general.”

According to Coaches vs. Racism executive director Darryl Woods, his goal is to have the same model as the Coaches vs. Cancer showcase. He’s already lined up plans to pair more high-major programs against HBCUs in Las Vegas next year, with Houston and Miami being considered as potential sites for future events.

Woods added he wanted the selection of the teams for the inaugural game to be “organic.” After having conversations with numerous coaches and getting their thoughts, he decided Howard and Smith made “the most sense.”

When approached, Howard didn’t think twice about taking part in an event that has a deeper meaning and is about more than just basketball.

"One of the things that I find special about sports, especially our team, is that we have guys that come from different backgrounds. We're speaking of religious backgrounds as well as ethnic backgrounds,” Howard said. “What I find with sports is that when you bring all those together, no one even thinks about any of that. They think about how can we all just come together and form that brotherhood.

“What we have witnessed in this country is that there's a big divide. When this opportunity was brought to me to be a part of it, I thought it was a no-brainer. The University of Michigan has a huge platform. There's a lot of guys on this team that I coach that look at me as the leader, that identify and look just like me that want to be a part of this event.”


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins

Michigan vs. Prairie View A&M

Tip-off: 8 p.m., Saturday, Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington, D.C.

TV/radio: BTN/950

Records: No. 6 Michigan 1-0; Prairie View A&M 0-2

Outlook: This is the first meeting between the two programs. …Prairie View A&M is coming off a West Coast trip that featured a 19-point loss at Saint Mary’s and 16-point loss at San Francisco. Senior guard Jawaun Daniels (20 points) leads the Panthers, who have won three straight Southwest Athletic Conference regular-season titles.