Monday, May 22, 2017

Black College News

WASHINGTON, D.C.
“You are graduating and going into a totally different world,” Kamala Harris told graduates at Howard University’s recent commencement ceremony.

Harris is the second African-American woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate in history from her home state, California. She was the first woman to serve as Attorney General of California. Harris graduated from Howard in 1986, before earning a law degree from University of California, Hastings College.

Harris told the graduates at Howard, “You are graduating into a very different time than it was when you arrived a few short years ago. You are graduating into a time when we see a revival of the failed War on Drugs and a renewed reliance on mandatory minimum prison sentences,” she said. “A time when young people who were brought to America as children fear a midnight knock on the door.”

Harris continued, “A time when throwing millions of working people off their health insurance to give tax breaks to the top 1 percent is considered a victory to some. A time when we worry that a late-night tweet could start a war. A time when we no longer believe the words of some of our leaders, and where the very integrity of our justice system has been called into question.”

Harris told the grads, “Indeed we have a fight ahead. And it’s not a fight between Democrats and Republicans. It’s not rich versus poor or urban versus rural. It’s a fight to define what kind of country we are. It’s a fight to determine what kind of country we will be. And it’s a fight to determine whether we are willing to stand up for our deepest values. Because let’s be clear – we are better than this.”

A native of Oakland, Harris is the eldest daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants.

The Florida NAACP is calling for the resignation of Bethune Cookman University President Edison O. Jackson, after students booed and turned their backs on U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who delivered the keynote address at commencement on May 10.

At one point, Jackson interrupted DeVos to warn protesting students that if they continued to boo, “your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you wanna go.” According to news reports, this is not the first time DeVos has received a negative reception. Back in February, protestors prevented her from entering Jefferson Academy in Washington, D.C.

On the heels of the NAACP’s call for Jackson’s resignation as president, comes a letter of support for the resignation from more than 200 African-American faculty members. Camika Royal, an assistant professor of urban education at Loyola University Maryland and one of three principal authors of the letter, said the message was clear that the students needed support.

“As a graduate of an HBCU, I know how important an education is for an individual, as well as a community,” Royal said, in a recent interview in The Atlanta Journal Constitution. “So, to look at these Bethune-Cookman students have that moment taken away from them and see Betsy DeVos be held up as a speaker, was a slap in the face to them and their families.”

The letter of support included signatures from scholars at North Carolina Central University, Ohio State University, Princeton and Duke.

Those who initially rejected DeVos’ visit and later organized the protest against it explained their objections by pointing to clear examples. “This is a person who’s planning to privatize our schools,” said Rachel Gilmer, who works with the Dream Defenders, a Florida-based progressive-leaning youth organization. “They’re planning to gut many of the steps taken to protect student borrowers by Obama … she has made it clear in her words and her actions that she doesn’t care about the futures of Black people.”

The event launched headlines nationwide. And the state branch of the NAACP called for the president’ “to resign effective immediately,” because it had received multiple complaints about the suppression of free speech from students and faculty.

The NAACP said in a recent statement, “Multiple allegations have surfaced including faculty intimidation demanding their silence or risk termination and threats to students by potentially withholding earned degrees and fines for freedom of expression.”

Moreover, the NAACP said it had lawyers who were prepared “to represent faculty and students who peacefully protest (but are) subject to retaliation by the university. Our partners have reviewed the university student code of conduct, and it does not contain any prohibition on peaceful protests and freedom of expression. The NAACP Volusia County Daytona Beach Branch and several attorneys will be on the ground monitoring this situation.”

While DeVos did not directly acknowledge the protesters in her address, she did say the Trump administration would “continue to support” HBCUs.

According to news reports, on May 1 protests began on campus when officials said DeVos would deliver the keynote address at commencement. Some demanded that the invitation be rescinded. Soon an online petition was started by Dominik Whitehead, who is a 2010 graduate of Bethune-Cookman, community organizer and political activist.

“Do not use Bethune-Cookman as a photo op,” Whitehead said, shortly before he delivered the petitions to the administration building. “Come to the table with something that is going to actually do something, in terms of policy, funding.”

The university posted a statement about the situation on its website. According to the statement, 374 students received degrees, 20 students “expressed their freedom of protest during her speech,” and 13 students “were escorted out of the ceremony due to disruption.”

A university spokesperson said, “I am here to celebrate you and all of your achievements. We are all here to applaud your perseverance and to encourage each of you to keep working to reach your full potential.”

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
For an extraordinary 14th time, the women of Bethune-Cookman University left Port St. Lucie as victors of the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship presented by CastleOak Securities. The 31st edition of the 54-hole, stroke-play event was contested on PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker and Ryder Courses and featured six divisions.

The Bethune-Cookman women enjoyed their sixth consecutive Women’s Division victory with a three-day total of 889. The Wildcats were led by Mackenzie Butzer (215), whose final round, 1-under-par 71 solidified her position as the division’s medalist, finishing 1-under-par for the Championship and nine strokes ahead of teammate Alejandra Sanchez.

“Today, I had the mentality of playing easy golf,” said Butzer, who finished runner-up in the Women’s Division medalist race last year. “I worked extremely hard all year and my game has come together, finally.”

Not to be outdone by their fellow Wildcats, the men of Bethune-Cookman (875) claimed their fourth Men’s Division I victory in five years with a 16-stroke margin over Incarnate Word (891). Sam Sloman’s steady play and three-day total of 217 earned him the Division I medalist.

New year, same result for the Women’s Individual Invitational. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s Tiana Jones (232) cruised to a five-stroke victory, her fourth consecutive victory at this Championship. Jones will return to UMES in the fall for her final year in the PGA Golf Management University Program.

A pair of playoffs determined the team champion and medalist honors for Men’s Division II. After finishing 54 holes knotted up at 927, Lincoln and the University of West Alabama played two more to determine the champion. West Alabama sealed the victory with a team-combined 2-under-par on the second playoff hole, beating Lincoln by one stroke. West Alabama’s Brannon O’Pry defeated Virginia State’s Samuel Reid in a separate playoff to earn the Men’s Division II medalist.

The PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship presented by CastleOak Securities has elevated golf in minority colleges and universities by providing opportunities for players to compete in a national championship. In 2006, the PGA of America was granted complete ownership and management by the National Minority Collegiate Golf Scholarship Fund.

Fourteeen Division I HBCU teams at eight different schools will be ineligible for the postseason in 2017-18 due to their low Academic Progress Rates.

In 2017-18, teams are subject to penalties for not meeting the minimum academic standard set by member schools. Some of the teams ineligible for postseason play are among those subject to penalties. Schools may request a waiver from some or all penalty elements. Waivers are overseen by the Committee on Academics. The Academic Performance Program penalty structure includes three levels, with penalties increasing in severity at each level. Schools move through the penalty structure each year, progressing to the next level of severity if their multiyear APR remains below the benchmarks.

The specific penalties for each team are listed on the school’s report in the APR searchable database. Level One penalties focus on practice restrictions, which provide additional
time for teams to focus on academics. Teams facing this penalty lose four hours and one day of practice time per week in season, which is intended to be replaced with academic activities. In 2017-18, 16 teams face this level of penalty.

Level Two penalties include the Level One penalty and a reduction of four hours of practice time out of season, which is intended to be replaced with academic activities. At Level Two, the team’s non-championship season, or spring football, is eliminated. Teams without non championship seasons face a reduced number of contests. In 2017-18, 10 teams fall into this category.

Penalty ChartPostseason ineligibility
Alabama A&M: Baseball, M basketball, M golf, W cross country
Grambling: M basketball, M cross country, M track
Howard: M swimming and diving
Morgan State: M cross country
Savannah State: M basketball, football
Southern: M baseball, M cross country, M track, W cross country

Level One Penalties
Alabama A&M: M basketball, football, W basketball, W cross country, W soccer
Florida A&M: W bowling
Grambling: Men’s basketball, M cross country, M track, softball
Morgan State: W basketball, W track
Prairie View A&M: M basketball
Savannah State: Baseball

Level Two Penalties
Alabama A&M: Baseball, M golf
Howard: M swimming and diving
Morgan State: M cross country
Savannah State: M basketball, football
Southern:
baseball, M cross country, M track, W cross country

The Trump Administration’s first budget blueprint  has proposed slashing about $54 billion from  domestic spending programs and shifting that money to the Department of Defense (DOD).
Consequently, the DOD Authorization  Bill of 2018 is getting a lot of attention from various military lobbyists and other interests groups, who want to benefit from the new defense budget.

Representatives from a number of   Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), have also gone to Washington, lobbying to include their schools in DOD’s budget.

Trump met with HBCU Presidents in February and promised leaders greater support,  but there is no new money for the institutions in his budget proposal.

In fact, the HBCU funding apparatus has been moved from the Department of Education to the White House Executive Office.

And, just recently the White House issued a statement in reference to Trump’s signing H.R. 244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 that suggested the government’s program for HBCUs may be unconstitutional.

Trump wrote, “My Administration shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender … in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.” The statement specifically cited the “Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program Account.”

Bill Thomas, the Director of Governmental Relations at Hampton University, was one of the several  HBCU representatives who have gone to Capitol Hill to address members of various  money committees and to request funds for various projects for their schools.

Thomas said along with Hampton, Bowie State and Howard among HBCUs, they believe they can access some of the millions of additional funds the DOD will receive, in the form of grants and contracts which will bolster not only their schools but the communities they serve.

Although Hampton is a private institution and does not receive any direct federal or state aid,  it has applied for and received millions of dollars in federal funds in the form of investment and performance contracts.

Thomas said the Department of Education (DOE)  is not the only federal department agency which directs funds to HBCUs. DOD  and other agencies have provided HBCUs with millions in funding for  research and development in such areas as cybersecurity,  diversity training, health services, economic development and space explorations.

Several years ago, Hampton  was the first and only HBCU to have 100 percent mission responsibility for a NASA satellite mission.  The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere mission was launched on April 25, 2007 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. via a Pegasus XL launch vehicle. The initial contract of $140M now totals over $160M with contract extension
“This time we  are asking for $50 million from DOD and the Veterans Administration to invest in our Proton Therapy Center to develop a new way to fight cancer,” said Thomas. “They are going to give Stanford University $400 million  for their program.  Why not give us a $50 million, and we  can do the same thing.”

Thomas said  he and other HBCU representatives were speaking before the various funding committees ahead of Congress’ effort to approve  the  short term funding bill to keep the federal government for a week and avoid a shutdown.

He said budget talks will continue and lead up to the  long term spending bill in September for the federal government’s 2018 funding cycle.

This is when the lawmakers will take up the long term spending bill.

Thomas said that several years ago, in an effort to reform Congressional spending habits, “earmarks” or   money inserted in a spending bill for a specific Congressional district or project, was killed.

HBCUs had received millions in earmarks over the years.

“The money for HBCUs was cut off but a lot of  White schools still got their money because they had more political support at the state and federal levels,” said Thomas.   “HBCUs are figuring out how to access federal money in other ways. If you don’t speak up…you don’t get heard or any of the money that is out there.    We are trying to get ahead of the new game.”

Thomas said 35 years ago during the initial budget cycle of the Reagan administration, there were steep cuts in funding and billions were shifted to the  DOD intelligence community.

According to Thomas and other government sources, Virginia’s  HBCUs and majority White colleges were among the biggest recipients of DOD, NASA  and other non-Education Department funding grants and contracts in the nation.

For instance, between 2000 and 2007, Hampton, a private HBCU,  was at the top of the list in receiving funding from these agencies at a tune of $111 million.  Virginia Tech was second at $102 million at that time.

In 2007  alone,  HU got some $11.6 million; ODU, $8.4 million NSU $549,290 and Christopher Newport University $326,940.

Now  HU is receiving about $75  million  in federal funding. But Virginia Tech is getting about three times that much, Thomas said, because of the political support the school received compared to HU.

Thomas said that Congressman Robert Scott has been instrumental in supporting their effort to access federal funding from various departments.

He said he hoped that other members of the Congressional Black Caucus would devote more time  to the same effort.

In 2014, Norfolk State University received a $25-million  grant  to educate, train and develop the nation’s next generation of cyber security from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

The same year, NSU received the Army Research Office Grant Award: “Building a Cloud Computing and Big Data Infrastructure for Cybersecurity Research and Education” in the amount of $497,725.

The same year, NSU received the U.S. Department of Defense Grant Award: “Information Assurance Scholarship Program 2014” in the amount of $46,925.

In September 2013, NSU received U.S. the Department of Defense Grant Award: “Information Assurance Scholarship Program 2013” in the amount of $101,636.

It is not clear if the U.S. Congress will accept the administration’s budget plan later this year. It calls for cuts in programs both Democratic and Republican lawmakers support.   

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter 

NORFOLK
Norfolk State held its 2017 Commencement exercises Saturday afternoon (May 6) at the Scope arena.
Nina Turner, a commentator on CNN and other cable networks, delivered a heart-felt, motivational commencement address to a capacity crowd in the downtown Norfolk arena.
Turner challenged the students to remember the struggles and sacrifices of their ancestors and to move boldly into the future, continuing the fight for civil rights and equality.
Senior class president Tichira Smith presented NSU president Eddie Moore with a check from the seniors in the amount of $6,500 for the NSU Foundation.
President Moore gave special recognition to retiring choir director Dr. Carl W. Haywood and thanked him for his years of service to the University.

By Randy Singleton

Community Affairs Correspondent

President Moore recognizes retiring choir director Dr. Carl W. Haywood.
Tichira Smith presents single largest class gift of $6,500 to President Moore.

The prospect of as many as ten former black college standouts finding their way into the 2017 NFL Draft did not materialize last week as only four names went off the boards when the league held its annual 7-round confab last week in Philadelphia.

Somewhat surprisingly, Grambling State wide receiver Chad Williams was the first HBCU product selected as the Arizona Cardinals took him with the 34th pick in Friday’s third round. He was the 98th overall selection.

Diminutive record-setting North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen was next, going early Saturday to the Chicago Bears with the 13th pick of the fourth round and 119th overall.

Later in the same round, Albany State defensive tackle Grover Stewart was taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the 38th pick, 144th overall.

No more HBCU players came off the boards until Alabama State offensive tackle Jylan Ware was selected by the Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Raiders with the 13th pick of the seventh and final round. Ware was the 231st overall selection.

The four selections continues a trend that has not seen HBCU products reach double-digits in the draft since 2000. Another ten HBCU products, many considered draftable, were quickly gobbled up by teams with free agent contracts.

THE PICKS
The selection of Williams (6-1, 204), the top black college receiver last year with 90 receptions for 1,337 yards and 11 TDs for the HBCU national champion Tigers, was not a surprise in the sense that most had projected him to be taken. The surprise was that he went first.

He was suspended for Grambling’s season opener after his arrest for a series of charges last year. The charges were later dropped but the arrest, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall’s recent focus on players’ off-field issues, prevented him from participating in the Combine. And, he was a late addition to the Senior Bowl after turning heads with an outstanding showing at the NFLPA all-star game in California.

But his personal interviews, the 4.43 40-time at his Pro Day and what some considered a dominating performance against Div. I corners at Senior Bowl practices convinced the Cardinals that he was worth the pick.

Cardinals’ officials said after speaking with Williams at Grambling that they believed his arrest was a ‘wrong place, wrong time’ incident.

Williams, who finished his 47-game career at Grambling with 210 receptions for 3,062 yards and 29 TDs, is the type of big-bodied receiver that Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians covets. According to the Arizona website, Arians has been fantastic at identifying impact pass-catchers in the third round, helping nab NFL standouts Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, T.Y. Hilton and John Brown over the past nine years. Williams hopes to be the next one.

“I’m just going to come in and be me, and I know for a fact I can live up to that third-round hype,” Williams said.

Cohen, who finished his A&T career with an MEAC-record 5,619 rushing yards, is seen as a ‘change of pace’ back by the Bears. He had nine touchdowns on runs of over 70 yards in his career and is expected to be used also as a receiver out of the backfield like Philadelphia’s Darren Sproles. Six-foot, 222-pound rookie running back Jordan Howard out of Indiana was the Bears’ feature back in 2016 running for 1,313 yards and six TDs.

“He had a chip on his shoulder and I like that,” said Chicago head coach John Fox on the Bears’ website of his visit with Cohen when the scatback came to Chicago. “He always wants to prove people wrong. He has a confidence to him.

“When we get these guys in the building, a lot of time is spent with our coaches, really gathering their football intelligence. He (Cohen) has a really high football IQ, which is important for that position because you’re going to be moving him around a lot and doing a lot of different things with him. I think the thing that stood out was the energy that he has and he has a chip on his shoulder and I really like that about him.”

Cohen, at his draft celebration on the A&T campus Saturday, said, “I’m ready to make plays. I’m ready to play.”

Stewart said coming from NCAA Div. II Albany State will not be a problem as he steps up to face NFL competition. “I don’t see any difference between it. I’m going to play like I play, and dominate like I always do,” he said.

At 6-5, Stewart grew from 295 to 334 while at Albany State with no dropoff in production. He was an all-SIAC selection in all four years he played.

And dominate is just what he did registering 27 sacks and 48.5 tackles for losses while starting all four years. The Colts and others liked his power and explosiveness, footwork and ability to collapse the pocket. He was on the radar for a lot of teams and was one of the fastest movers up the draft boards. “I can play anywhere from nose (tackle) to three-technique,” he said online at coltswire.usatoday.

Ware is about as tall, at 6-7, 317, as Stewart is wide. The Raiders liked his long arms and NFL frame. Because of those attributes, Ware also moved steadily up the draft boards late.

Online at raiderswire.usatoday.com, Spencer Hall of CBS Sports said of Ware that he, “possesses superb run blocking abilities and this likely enticed Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie as the team has brought in former Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.”

Seven players signed free agent contracts and three others were given tryouts. Among the latter group was former Texas Southern basketball and football standout Derrick Griffin who was granted a tryout by Minnesota. “All I’ve asked for is a chance to prove myself,” Griffin said.

There’s a modest amount of guaranteed money invested in an undrafted free agent, while a tryout player isn’t guaranteed anything, one agent explained. “The main difference is if you’re an undrafted free agent, you sign your contract immediately. If you’re getting invited for a tryout, you’re basically going out there with a two- or thee-day tryout and then they decide out of this pool of 15 or 20 guys, ‘OK, we’re going to sign this one or that one.”

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

Packing your bags and moving to another location to close out your college basketball career is not always a good move. In fact, most times it has the opposite effect.

Bethune-Cookman’s 6-9 shot-blocker and 2015-16 MEAC Defensive Player of the Year LaRon Smith moved to Auburn of the SEC for his final year. Six-ten senior Doudou Gueye left South Carolina State after a run to the 2015-16 MEAC Tournament finals to play at Ball State.

Smith started three of the 24 games he played in for Auburn this year averaging 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and less than one block per game in 12 minutes per contest. In the MEAC, he led the league in field goal percentage (.585) and blocks per game (3.0), pulled down 6.9 rebounds and played about 25 minutes per game. He was third in the nation in blocked shots.

Gueye averaged 0.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in nearly nine minutes per game at SCSU. He averaged about the same in two less minutes in 18 games at Ball State this year.

Coppin State 2015-16 scoring leader Christian Kesee (14.6 ppg.) averaged 1.9 points in 29 games after joining head coach Tubby Smith at Memphis this season. He played 7.5 minutes per game for Memphis, a team-best 32.2 minutes at Coppin.

What gives?

Funny thing is, it used to be the other way around. Talented players would flame out at this or that big-time Div. I program and look for solace and a home at an HBCU. While that’s still happening to some degree, it’s now almost in reverse.

The fact is, none of the former black college players guys are stars at their new locations. Hampton transfer and former MEAC tourney MVP Deron Powers at least came close to equalling his numbers at Hampton. He was third in assists (5.2 per game) and 18th in points per game (13.0) for Hofstra in the Colonial Athletic Association though he did not make any of the three all-CAA teams.

It’s hard to believe that any of these guys has increased his chances of playing professionally with their moves. They are more likely now to be overlooked.

Florida A&M head coach Byron Samuels, who was let go after this season, who in addition to losing Bernard from last year’s squad lost his top two scorers (Jermaine Rutley and Jorge Rosa) off his 2014-15 team, calls the transfer debacle “a national epidemic and a disgrace.”

“In Division I basketball last year alone, about 900 kids transferred,” said Samuels. “That’s ridiculous. Secondly, we’ve had about eight of our better players in the MEAC in the two-and-a-half years that I’ve been here, that have left to go to so-called higher levels. In some cases, our guys are being recruited.”

To date, Verbal Commits, an online site that tracks player movement, totals 503 transfers just in 2017.

NCCU head coach LeVelle Moton said early this season, “there’s no loyalty in college basketball anymore.” He spoke of a player that he took in, rescued, nurtured and fed from his own table only to see him bolt at the first opportunity.

The big question is, why not take the route of former Norfolk State 6-10 center Kyle O’Quinn? The native New Yorker stayed at Norfolk State for four years and earned a bevy of awards (player of the year, defensive player of the year, tournament MVP) as an outstanding senior in the 2011-12 MEAC season, leading his team to the league’s regular season and tournament titles and NCAA Tournament berth.

He then led the Spartans to a stunning upset of Missouri on the big stage in the NCAA Big Dance. He got national acclaim and an opportunity to prove himself before NBA scouts.

He parlayed that into a second round selection in the NBA draft by Orlando and just finished his fourth year in the Association playing significant minutes for the New York Knicks.

What’s wrong with that?

Okay, so write this down. Basketball talent leaving Div. I HBCUs has become a new normal and a developing story in Div. I college basketball.

If this starts happening in college football however, with FCS HBCU stars leaving to join FBS teams, it will be no less than an upheaval.

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

There are an unusual number of significant and intriguing black college prospects for this week’s NFL Draft that begins Thursday (April 27) and will be held outdoors for the first time ever at the famous “Rocky Steps” in Philadelphia.

While none of this year’s prospects has the status or cachet of 2016 top black college pick Javon Hargrave out of South Carolina State – who was projected to go early in last year’s draft and went in the third round to the Pittsburgh Steelers – the sheer number of HBCU products getting major looks by league teams makes this year’s possible selections quite interesting.

No HBCU player is projected to go off the draft boards in Thursday’s first round which begins at 8 p.m. and none are expected to be taken in rounds two and three during Friday’s selections which begin at 7 p.m.

But on Saturday, as many as ten prospects could be taken when the league’s 32 teams make selections in rounds four through seven. Those selections will begin at noon Saturday.

It’s even hard to choose which HBCU player will go off the boards first. That’s what makes this year’s draft for HBCU products so unpredictable.

The first pick could be diminutive (5-9, 175) dynamic game breaker Tarik Cohen, who finished his career at North Carolina A&T as the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference’s all-time leading rusher (5,619 yards). Or it could be massive (6-7, 325) offensive tackle Javarius Leamon out of South Carolina State.

Many are projecting 6-4, 335-pound former Albany State defensive tackle Grover Stewart as the one of the top sleepers in the draft and one who could be taken early. Others that could slip into the top spot are 6-2, 245-pound tackling machine, linebacker Javancy Jones out of Jackson State, or 6-8, 295-pound offensive tackle Jylan Ware from Alabama State.

It would not even be a surprise if 6-4, 318-pound guard Jessamen Dunker of Tennessee State is the first off the board. Four TSU offensive linemen have been selected in the past three drafts.

Tennessee State defensive back Ezra Robinson (5-11, 189) is considered the top HBCU defensive back in this year’s draft and has been given a draftable grade at his position.

Grambling State wide receiver Chad Williams (6-1, 204) and Alabama State tight end Brandon Barnes (6-5, 255) are the top two pass-catching prospects. Each has generated some buzz with their performances leading up to the draft.

Perhaps the biggest HBCU talent and certainly the biggest enigma is former Texas Southern basketball and football standout Derrick Griffin (6-7, 230). Griffin was considered one of the top receiving prospects in the nation when he came out of a high school in the Dallas area but could not qualify academically at either Texas A&M or Miami. Instead, he enrolled at TSU.

In the 2015-16 season as a freshman, Griffin was a second team all-SWAC receiver in football and first team all-SWAC forward in basketball, sweeping the player and defensive player of the year awards. This year as a sophomore, he was dismissed from the football team after just two games and quit the basketball team after 13 games to prepare for the draft.

Scouts say his skill set and athleticism are “off-the-charts” but how and where he projects in the draft is anybody’s guess.

If all ten players mentioned make it into the draft it would be the highest number since eight were selected in 2003 and the first double digit haul since 2000.

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

At least 12 all-MEAC basketball players or all-MEAC caliber talents have transferred out of the conference in the last four years. Former Norfolk State 6-8 forward Rashid Gaston and former Florida A&M 6-6 left-handed guard Malcom Bernard left the Spartans and Rattlers respectively over the last two years to play their final seasons at Xavier of the Big East. “I wanted to have the chance to go to the NCAA tournament,” Bernard said on Cincinnati.com of his move last year, similar to what Gaston expressed while leaving NSU two seasons ago. “I wanted to win a lot of games and be successful,” Bernard said. “I thought if I transferred, I would be able to do something bigger somewhere else.”

That’s not necessarily been the case. At NSU in the 2014-15 season, Gaston averaged a near double-double of 15.5 points and 9.6 boards per game on a 20-14 team. Bernard left an 8-21 Florida A&M team after averaging 14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds a year ago. At Xavier, playing on much more talented squads, neither has approached those numbers.

Gaston averaged 7.4 points and team-bests of 5.9 rebounds and 0.5 blocks for the 24-14 Musketeers this season, just above Bernard’s 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. Bernard started 35 of 38 games. Gaston started 18. Bernard averaged over 28 minutes per game, Gaston 20.

Both had their moments. Gaston led Xavier in rebounding in 11 games and had his best outing in a 23-point, 10-rebound effort in a loss to Villanova on Feb. 11. He followed that up with a 19-point, 14-rebound performance in a loss to Providence four days later.

Bernard had perhaps his best game in a battle against Arizona in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. He scored 15 points and pulled down six rebounds in a 73-71 Musketeers win over the second-seeded Wildcats that advanced Xavier to the Elite Eight. Both Gaston and Bernard had five points in a 83-59 loss to eventual national runner-up Gonzaga that ended their season. As for exposure, reaching the Elite Eight at Xavier is certainly bigger than 17-17 Norfolk State’s run to the MEAC Tournament finals and a first round appearance in the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament or FAMU’s 8-21 finish.

Sterling Smith, an all-MEAC guard at Coppin State, wound up as a starter at Pittsburgh in the ACC in the 2015-16 season. Richaud Pack, a 17-point scorer and another all-MEAC player at North Carolina A&T in 2014, ended up as an occasional starter on Maryland’s Big 10 squad a year ago.

Smith, after averaging 13.1 points and 30 minutes a game at Coppin, averaged 4.3 points and 17 minutes for the Panthers last season. Pack’s 17 points and 34 minutes per game at A&T turned into 5.8 points and 25 minutes a night for the 2015-16 Terps.

“I was stunned and disappointed,” said Cy Alexander, then Pack’s coach at A&T. “He was projected to be our leading scorer coming back. When he decided to leave at the late date that he did, it was impossible to recruit someone of his skill and athletic ability to replace him. It was an obstacle we could not overcome.”

Alexander said Pack wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament and figured that Maryland, in a multiple-bid league like the Big 10, had a better chance than A&T in the one-bid MEAC. Alexander said Pack indicated that it didn’t matter if he didn’t play. Perhaps it’s the old adage of, ‘I’d rather be a little fish in a big pond than a big fish in a little pond.’ Okay, but does that make sense?

Deron Powers of Hampton bolted the Pirates after they won the 2015 MEAC Tournament title and he was named the tourney’s Most Valuable Player. He led the Pirates into a first round NCAA Tournament matchup with topside Kentucky. Powers, a 5-11 former MEAC rookie of the year who had scored 1,080 points and handed 385 assists in his three years at Hampton, would have been the top returning point guard in the MEAC. He scored 10 points and handed out 3.7 assists per game and was among the league leaders playing over 32 minutes per game in his final season with the Pirates.

He took up residence at Hofstra University of the Colonial Athletic Association, another one-bid league, and after sitting out last season played his final year of eligibility for the Pride. Powers is one of the few whose numbers have gone up since transferring. He scored 13.0 points and dished out 5.2 assists per game for the 15-17 Pride in just about the same number of minutes.

Powers told a newspaper at the time of his transferring that one of his reasons for the move was “the vibe I got up there when I went to visit, how seriously they take basketball.” He was also quoted saying he wanted to go to a “better program” in a “better setting.”
Seriously?

Let’s see. Hofstra drew 2,819 to its largest attended home game this season on Feb. 4 vs. Drexel. By contrast, Hampton drew 3,214 to its Jan. 25 home date vs. South Carolina State and 4,545 that showed up for a showdown vs. North Carolina Central on Jan. 16.

Hofstra finished 7-11 in CAA play, good for seventh in the 10-team CAA. Hampton was 14-17 overall, fourth in the MEAC at 11-5 and played in the College Basketball Invitational postseason tournament. Powers went from a little pond to a smaller pond.

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor