HBCU Draft Picks are opening the door for future prospects

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by Donovan Dooley

It shouldn’t be a secret that players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities have been cornerstones throughout the National Football League. In the Golden Age of HBCU Football, Hall of Fame Players such as Jerry Rice, Walter Payton and Richard Dent became household names after being drafted from HBCUs.

However, after integration enticed more top-level talent to matriculate to the bigger predominantly white institutions, the level of HBCU talent and the number of HBCU draftees fell.

Yet, with the play of Former North Carolina A&T running back and Chicago Bears standout, Tarik Cohen, eyes on HBCU prospects could be starting to increase. And it might not be long until we see another Golden Age of HBCU NFL talent.

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In the 2018 NFL Draft, Former South Carolina State Linebacker, Darius Leonard, was selected in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts with the number 36th pick overall. This means that Leonard, who is the two-time MEAC defensive player of the year and the Bulldog’s all-time leader in tackles, was only four picks away from being selected in the first round. He is one of the highest HBCU prospects taken in recent history.

“If you are a ball player they can find you,” said Leonard. “Just because you didn’t go to a big-time school like Clemson, Carolina or Alabama you still can get picked high in the draft if you are doing all the right things and you got that right tape you can still be a great ball player.”

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Leonard believes his speed, athleticism, and intelligence about the game can help get him on the field in Indianapolis early. However, it might be his work ethic and proverbial “chip on his shoulder” that could turn Leonard into a standout performer for the Colts for years to come.

“You have to make the best of your opportunity to standout, I wanted to go to Clemson, and with them not offering I had a big chip on my shoulder,” said Leonard. “I think personally I work harder than anybody in the NFL Draft because in my head I want to be the best.”

One of his colleagues who shares that chip is North Carolina A&T offensive lineman, Brandon Parker. Parker, who was a two-time MEAC Offensive Lineman of the year award winner and a first team All-American at NCAT, was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the third round with the 65th pick overall.

“The thing that is going to really get me going is that I’ve always kind of played the underdog role, “said Parker.” And I think that the fact that a lot of people still don’t agree with myself and (Leonard’s) pick being so high .. it’s just going to be like okay now I still got more people to prove wrong, let’s go! “

Parker was selected by the Raiders to compete for a starting spot on that offensive line to protect Franchise Quarterback, Derek Carr. And Parker is confident he can bring a toughness and a will to work that can help benefit his new team.

“Toughness and a will to work goes a long way, obviously there is going to be a lot of banging around for the initial adjustment period and it’s going to be a lot to learn as far as schemes and learning the ropes as a rookie.” Said Parker. “The best thing you can do is bring a positive attitude and come to work hard every single day.”

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Hard work and inspiration have been recurring themes for both of these highly selected HBCU draft picks. Whether it was Leonard being inspired by his brother, former NFL player and Clemson Tigers standout, Anthony Waters, to become the best player he could possibly be. Or Parker, who has been inspired by his father to never be discouraged and trust God’s plan, it seems evident that the future of HBCUs in the NFL are in the good hands of two of the most talented 2018 NFL Draft selections.

What Cohen as well as other HBCU players in the league helped spark could be another age of HBCU excellence in the league. And with Parker and Leonard both being selected relatively high they could pave the way for the next HBCU first round selection.

“I think myself and (Leonard) realize just how big this is from just how high we went” said Parker. “Not only does that kind of motivate us but it makes us the leaders and puts us at the forefront of what HBCU players can do.”

There are no more Cinderella’s only Bracket Busters.

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by Jarod Hamilton

As March Madness closes and we say a sad goodbye to another college basketball season, it’s important that we recap one of the most unpredictable NCAA Tournaments in recent history. Lower seeded teams ran wild through this years tournament, but the question is should we really be shocked by a “Cinderella’s” success?

On March 16th, 2018, the University of Maryland Baltimore County did the impossible as they upset the number one overall seeded, Virginia Cavaliers. This wasn’t any regular number one seed, this team boasted a 31-2 regular season record, won both the ACC regular season and tournament title, and was statistically one of the most dominant defensive squads in the history of the NCAA. However, The UMBC Retrievers demolished the Cavaliers in a 20 point clubbing. Many People (including myself) believed that UPenn was the best 16 seed in tournament history and after their 16 point loss to Kansas followed by UMBC’s 20 point win over Virginia, I have no choice but to admit that I should have put some “respeck” on the retrievers’ name.

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Most of us were all shocked by the performances of UMBC and other cinderella teams such as The Loyola Chicago Ramblers, The Buffalo Bulls and even the 11 seeded Syracuse Orangemen. But Should we really have been surprised? Basketball has changed. The Golden State Warriors have developed a new style of play that proves that you don’t have to be the tallest, strongest, or most athletically gifted player to win. However, if the team can crash the boards and make three pointers at an efficient rate, then they can put themselves in position to win against anyone.

Buffalo blew out the Arizona Wildcats 68-89 by shooting 50% from the three point line, while Arizona only shot a measly 11% from downtown. Millions of people had Arizona winning the title, led by projected top two pick, DeAndre Ayton, but as we see the Bulls style of play overwhelmed the more talented Wildcats.

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In the Retrievers win against Virginia, they shot 50% from three and outrebounded the Cavaliers by 11, 33 to 22. The tallest player for the Retrievers is 6’10” Nolan Gerrity. The Cavaliers have a 7-footer, someone else at 6’10” and someone at 6’9”. Although they are outsized by prospects who were at least 3 star recruits coming out of high school, their style of play led them to complete the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history.

The cinderella story that has a little bit more depth is the story of the 11 seeded Loyola- Chicago Ramblers who made it all the way to the Final Four. They have upset a six seed, three seed, seven seed and nine seed on their way to the national semifinal game. Their success should be contributed in part to a combined 41.6% three point shooting percentage over the duration of the team’s run in the tournament, and sister Jean of course, the team’s 98 year-old chaplain.

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An “upset” during March Madness is the what creates the hysteria, the fun, and the madness! But with this new style of play, the gap between these top programs and smaller schools is slimming drastically and because of this the chance of an higher seed going down is more likely than ever.

Howard Embezzlement Scandal has caused tensions between students and administration.

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by Donovan Dooley

Twitter went into a frenzy after records that alleged Howard University financial aid employees embezzled $1 Million Dollars in financial funding were posted by an anonymous author in The Medium yesterday. Howard University’s student newspaper, The Hilltop, details that the story received mass attention following a social media post from the student activist group, HU resist.

Many Howard Students were already skeptical of the administration on campus and this latest news of financial wrongdoing has only increased tensions on campus between administrators and students.

“I had heard people before saying that money was being embezzled so this wasn’t the first I had heard of something along these lines,” said Lawrence Dow, a senior sports management student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “It made me think they figured out something was wrong but wanted to avoid public embarrassment. So, they instead tried to keep it as quiet as they could. It made them seem untrustworthy to me. “

Dow is not alone, as the news broke on twitter HU Resist started the #StudentPowerHU movement on twitter. Many students using the hashtag voiced their displeasure with the university and some even called for the resignation of Howard University President, Wayne Frederick.

Frederick did release a statement in response to the report that included the dismissal of six employees for “gross misconduct and neglect of duties”. However, even with the president’s statement students are still unhappy and looking for more transparency between the students and administration.

“I think the strife between students and administrators already existed,” said Dow. “This will probably further exacerbate it and I would be beyond shocked if there wasn’t protests.”

HU resist has already published a list of demands that they wish to be rectified by the administration. But there has been no word on if a formal protest has been planned to challenge Frederick’s leadership.

The name of a former student-employee have surfaced on Twitter as having taken money from the Howard financial aid office. But he has denied any connection to the missing funds.

This is a story that we will continue to follow as more development arise.

Marvin Bagley III should still be the number 1 pick.

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by Cameron Rivers.

After an 85-81 loss against the Kansas Jayhawks in the Elite Eight, Duke’s season had come to a close. Arguably, the most talented Blue Devil’s roster in the last fifteen years saw their season end with all five of their starters scoring in double figures. The lineup that featured four of the top High School Prospects from the Class of 2017 and senior leader Grayson Allen, were perceived to be the most talented group in college basketball. However, throughout the season Marvin Bagley III seemed to emerge over the rest and cement himself in a class of his own.

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Scouts and experts say that Bagley’s size, length, and skillset is comparable to future NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. While at first the comparison shocked me, I started to think “What would Kevin Garnett’s numbers look like in his first year of college?”

Would they be close to 21 points and 11 rebounds while shooting an efficient 60 percent from the field?

I would venture to say Garnett’s numbers would have probably been identical. Even without the Garnett comparison, Bagley’s resume speaks for itself. He won the ACC player of the year award as a freshman and is in the running to win college basketball’s most coveted individual honor, The Wooden Award.

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There has not been a player at Duke with Bagley’s skillset and talent in the last ten years, and that includes former number two overall NBA draft pick Jabari Parker. While Bagley was looked at as the consensus number one pick in the preseason, the emergence of Arizona’s Deandre Ayton and Oklahoma’s Trae Young have seemed to have opened up the conversation of who deserves to be selected at the top of the 2018 draft. However, if NBA general managers were smart, this would not even be a question. Bagley is more physically ready for the NBA than Young and while Bagley does not maintain the imposing size of Ayton, he possess a more versatile skillset that will translate to the NBA game well.

Bagley’s combination of size, athleticism and motor will make him a top five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft but if you were really paying attention to college basketball then you know he should be the undisputed first selection.

When Will HBCU’s have their “One Shining Moment”

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by Bradford Brooks

The first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament did not disappoint. Among the myriad of upsets that included the UMBC Retrievers defeating the number one overall seed Virginia Cavaliers, there were multiple games that were decided by 5 points or less and even some exhilarating buzzer beaters.

However, what March Madness seemed to miss was a strong black college presence. Two historically Black colleges played each other in the First Four this past Wednesday when Texas Southern University and North Carolina Central University squared off in Dayton,Ohio.

The matchup is historic, as teams from Black colleges typically get matched up against predominately white institutions. The South Western Athletic Conference champion, Texas Southern Tigers (15-19), defeated the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion, North Carolina Central Eagles (19-15),64-46 in a game where the Tigers dominated for most of the second half. TSU then lost to number 1 overall seed Xavier 103 -82 the following friday, thus eliminating both HBCUs from arguably the NCAA’s biggest money making event.

Texas Southern and North Carolina Central were both given 16 seeds, the same seeding that was awarded to the Nation’s adopted Cinderella team, UMBC.

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So the objective for HBCU basketball programs is now pretty simple: They need to become the next UMBC.

It is safe to say that UMBC was an institution relatively unknown by the majority of Americans. However, after their historic victory they became a household name and the number one story in sports for about three to four days.

And that is exactly the type of publicity HBCUs need. Through the retrievers one victory they have put their university in front of millions of eyes that would have never once thought of the school before. They have opened the door for major revenue increases to the school through potential enrollment numbers, potential apparel sells, and potential athletic prowess that may attend the school now since they have proven to win on one of the biggest stages.

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HBCUs need this. This influx of positive publicity could really go a long way into changing the negative perception many have of HBCUs.

For many who do not know, to many prospective students Athletics can influence their decision to attend an University almost as much as Academics. So with millions of eyes on your basketball team their could potentially be millions of eyes on your applications as well.

UMBC could exemplify how to capitalize on athletic success as a smaller school and it’s time for HBCU’s to do the same. HBCUs may be “one shining moment” away from changing their schools forever.