Blackness and College Selection for Athletes

Off the top of my head… the list includes Earl Lloyd (West Virginia State), Al Attles (North Carolina A&T), Zelmo Beatty (Prarie View A&M), Dick Barnett (Tennessee State), Willis Reed (Grambling State), Sam Jones (North Carolina Central), Earl Monroe (Winston-Salem State), Bobby Dandridge (Norfolk State), Truck Robinson (Tennessee State), Purvis Short (Jackson State), Charles Oakley (Virginia Union), Elmore Smith (Kentucky State), Marvin Webster (Morgan State), Slick Watts (Xavier-Louisiana), Ben Wallace (Virginia Union) and Rick Mahorn (Hampton), Ronald “Flip” Murray (Shaw) among others.

Willis Reed, Grambling University

All of these proud Historically Black College and University (HBCU) alums went on to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). To this woefully incomplete list we can add guys like Cleo Hill (Winston-Salem) and John Chaney (Bethune-Cookman) that were more than good enough but had to watch lesser white players fill rosters during the era of American Apartheid.

Today, a renaissance of sorts is underway. We are witnessing many of the top scholastic players choose to play for Black coaches at high major programs or committing to play at HBCUs. It’s a truly refreshing shift. For the last 50 years or so, white coaches at predominantly white universities have invaded the hood and syphoned off the very best basketball players from Black communities. Before that, these coaches and schools stood in the door and declared “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

After seven decades of explicit and rigidly enforced racist/white supremacist exclusion, white coaches and white institutions finally opened the doors of opportunity to Black student-athletes in the early 1970’s. But not before Texas Western with a Black starting 5 spanked the Kentucky Wildcats led by the virulently racist Adolph Rupp and USC led by a Black Quarterback trounced Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide on National television.

Texas Western, 1966 NCAA National Champions

The desire to field the most competitive teams proved overpowering. Even white supremacists want to win football and basketball games. By the dawn of the 1980’s, most college basketball and football teams at the high major D1 level were at least half Black.

All too often, observers forget just how recent widespread Black participation in NCAA athletics emerged. These fans, alums, coaches, athletic directors, boosters, presidents and trustees did not like nor want Blacks in their schools not long ago.

But… Blacks, especially parents and student-athletes must NEVER forget. Whites have already cast aside the memory of the Jim Crow era that spanned 1906 to roughly 1970. White fans and commentators forget how white coaches and white institutions shunned even the most talented Blacks. So much so, that when a kid like Makur Maker commits to what many consider the finest HBCU in the land, some whites publicly respond as follows: “Many types of decisions defy conventional logic regarding a wide range of topics. Unless we see more examples of the same thing, maybe a lot more–no pressing point in solving any perceived mystery.”

In other words, he’s convinced the overwhelming majority of the finest Black student-athletes will continue to commit to and play for white coaches at predominantly white schools. Maker to Howard is viewed a just a “one-off,” he’s an anomaly. Blacks will continue to view white coaches at white institutions as more desirable.

I beg to differ… We live in very interesting times… Existing power dynamics and relationships are being questioned.

Penny Hardaway (Memphis) signed seven (7) top 110 players in the class of 2019. That happened… I saw the NCAA (with it’s long unquestionably racist history) intervene and run the best freshman, James Wiseman, in the country off the court because he played at Memphis and not Duke, Kentucky or North Carolina… That happened…

Mike Boynton put together Oklahoma State’s top-10 signing class and then add Ole Miss guard Bryce Williams and 6-10 forward Bernard Kouma. They join a Cowboy class ranked No. 4 by Rivals, featuring the 2020 Naismith High School Player of the Year, Cade Cunningham, who was named the nation’s top recruit according to ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals, USA Today, MaxPreps and Ball Is Life.

Cade Cunningham. Oklahoma State commit

That happened… Again, I saw the NCAA (with it’s long unquestionably racist history) intervene and impose some harsh penalties on the Oklahoma State program, perhaps, hoping to see Cunningham flee to one of the traditional programs known for “Strong Ass Offers” like LSU, Arizona, Kansas or Duke…

Form where I sit, it seems that Black parents and student-athletes are increasingly behaving in a rational manner. All things considered, it makes sense… It’s a rational decision to commit to Juwan Howard (Michigan), Ed Cooley (Providence), Ashley Howard (La Salle), Aaron McKie (Temple), Patrick Ewing (Georgetown) or Kevin Baggett (Rider). It’s a rational decision to play at Howard, Morgan State, North Carolina-Central, South Carolina State or FAMU.

By placing Black men in leadership positions, these institutions have demonstrated a level of respect that should be prerequisite for Black parents considering college destinations for their talented sons.

What doesn’t make sense it to hand your gifted Black son over to a white coach at at white institution that has never had a Black head coach, athletic director or University President.

Why the fuck would you do that? They do not see Black men as leaders.

Michigan, Ohio State, UCLA and Vanderbilt have Black athletic directors right now. Maryland has a Black President, Black Athletic Director and a Black Head Football Coach.

Choose wisely…. and never, ever… ever… shut up and dribble.

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