Six Howard Athletics Programs join NEC

By The Sports Pulse Staff

Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON – Howard University has accepted an invitation from the Northeast Conference’s (NEC) Council of Presidents and will join the NCAA Division I league as part of a six-sport associate member partnership.

The Bison will begin NEC competition during the 2020-21 season in men’s and women’s swimming. In 2021-22, Howard will join the conference in men’s and women’s soccer, women’s lacrosse, and golf.

During the upcoming season, Howard men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse will play in the Sun Belt and Atlantic (ASUN) conferences, respectively, while women’s soccer and women’s golf will compete independently.

Founded in 1867, Howard is a private, historically black university (HBCU) based in Washington, D.C.

“Howard University is pleased to become an associate member of the Northeast Conference. This move will significantly reduce the geographical footprint that our athletes must travel for games, which will have a positive impact on our travel expenses,” said President Wayne A. I. Frederick. 

“I’d like to thank our former conference homes for these particular sports, the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Sun Belt, ASUN, and the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association, for their previous support of our programs.”

The addition of Howard boosts NEC women’s swimming & diving membership to ten teams this coming year. Howard will join Bryant, LIU, Mount St. Mary’s, and St. Francis Brooklyn for the inaugural season of NEC men’s swimming and diving this winter. The Bison previously competed in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) in both sports.

NEC men’s and women’s soccer membership will stand at ten and eleven, respectively, with the Bison’s addition. The conference will feature a nine-team women’s lacrosse alignment, while women’s golf sponsorship rises to eight programs.

“The Northeast Conference is thrilled to develop this six-sport associate partnership with Howard University,” said NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris. 

Howard is a full-time member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and will continue its membership with this conference change. Howard previously held associate membership in the Sun Belt in men’s soccer, the SWAC in women’s soccer, and the A-Sun in women’s lacrosse.

The 2020-21 campaign will mark Howard’s first season of competition in the sport of women’s golf. 

The program’s announcement made national headlines when Howard received a generous financial gift from six-time NBA All-Star and Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation co-founder, Stephen Curry, committed to supporting the establishment of the university’s first NCAA DI golf program for six years.

“This is a great opportunity for the student-athletes in these six programs,” said Howard Director of Athletics Kery Davis. “Our teams will have an opportunity to compete in a competitive conference while reducing their time away from the classroom. Thank you, Commissioner Noreen Morris and NEC Council of Presidents, we look forward to competing next year.”

Five-Star basketball prospect Makur Maker commits to Howard

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – A five-star basketball player had never committed to a historically black college or university (HBCU). With one tweet, that all changed.

On Thursday, high school prospect Makur Maker tweeted his final four options in his college decision, with Howard University among the quartet, which also features UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis.

Less than 12 hours after listing his options, Maker had made up his mind, committing to play for the Bison.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, to Sudanese parents, and raised in Perth, Australia, Makur moved to the United States before his freshman year of high school. 

At 6-foot-11, Maker, who is the cousin of Detroit Pistons center Thon Maker, is ranked by 247 Sports as the 18th best high school player in his recruiting class and 16th by ESPN 100.

Maker’s journey to choosing Howard has been one filled with twists and turns.

Maker made a college visit to Howard in October for during the university’s homecoming but tweeted in November that he would take his talents back to Australia to play in the National Basketball League (NBL).

Later that month, though, he pulled back on the commitment to play overseas.

In February, Maker had looked to possibly join his cousin at the NBA level after winning a petition with the league to gain eligibility for the 2020 Draft. He had missed a season of basketball because of an injury. Thus he had spent five years in high school.

By the end of April, Maker ranked 75th in ESPN’s Top 100 for his draft class and given the limitation in recent months since the outbreak of COVID-19, Maker has missed out on opportunities to impress NBA scouts and raise his draft stock, leading college basketball to be his best option.

As Maker made his decision to join the HBCU, Howard clearly stuck out among his four options. 

Kentucky and UCLA have historic basketball programs having each won 11 national championships, while Memphis is growing into a viable threat under head coach Penny Hardaway.

On the other hand, Howard is coming off a 4-29 record, where they won just one conference game under first-year head coach Kenneth Blakeney.

Despite their struggles, it is important to note that the team had lost more than 40 points per game worth of scoring to the transfer portal, as three players took their talents elsewhere following the 2018-19 season.

In attempts to bolster the program, Maker was one of the only star players to express interest in Howard. During the same period that Maker made his visit to Howard in October, five-star prospect Josh Christopher also toured the campus before ultimately committing to play at Arizona State University.

Although Christopher chose a Power Five program, the narrative around HBCU athletics has changed dramatically in recent months, even prior to Maker’s decision.

While Robert Covington and Kyle O’Quinn are the only active NBA players who attended HBCUs, the programs were long, the only option for many college athletes in the South. As schools desegregated, HBCUs eventually got pushed to the back burner as top athletes who opted for college programs with more resources and equipment.

Fueled in large part by the visits to Howard by Christopher and Maker, HBCUs have become part of the conversation for top basketball recruits. North Carolina Central made headlines in January for sending an offer to Bronny James. Highly touted high school athletes Trevor Keels and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield have picked up increased interest from HBCU programs.

More recently, high school prospect Mikey Williams tweeted hinting interest in HBCUs when he wrote, “Going to an HBCU wouldn’t be too bad…” 

He tweeted again on Thursday, further adding to the speculation.

Additionally, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul announced this week that he would team up with Roadside Entertainment to produce a docuseries on basketball programs at HBCUs.

With the growing interest in HBCUs, all eyes will be on Maker as he embarks on his new journey at Howard. Prior to playing a single game at the university, he has already contributed to the changing narrative around HBCU basketball.

American’s Elijah Murphy wins ESPY Award but relishes on continuing his mentorship work

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by Jay Mutchnik

WASHINGTON – American University student-athlete Elijah Murphy recently saw his face on television being honored during the ESPY Awards and was left in awe.

Together with Howard University student-athlete Niah Woods, Murphy was one of seven recipients of the 2020 Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award. The 157-pound wrestler said he did not know he was nominated until days before the show.

The moment his face flashed on the screen during the broadcast was “surreal,” but confirmed to Murphy that his work mentoring middle-school-aged children in the Washington, D.C. region meant that he was “doing something right.”

“[To] be in the same conversation as all those professional athletes and having people like Billie Jean King say your name and acknowledging the work that you’re putting in and saying that you’re an inspiration and that you give her confidence for the future alone, it really means a lot,” Murphy said.

The Northwestern High School alum was awarded for his work for The Grassroot Project, mentoring middle schoolers in Washington, D.C. in an array of topics, and will direct a grant to the organization to continue its outreach programs in the city.

The Grassroot Project partners with more than 50 D.C. public and charter schools to provide health education programs taught by NCAA student-athletes, which they call “non-traditional health educators.” The program chooses to work with student-athletes to build trusting relationships with the young students to discuss sensitive issues related to their health.

Topics include sexual, mental, and physical health, as well as nutrition. To break the ice, the “educators” are trained to start the conversation with interactive games before splitting into small group sessions.

While several of college friends were mentors, Murphy was unsure that his introverted personality would fit with the program’s objectives. His reservations on public speaking and being “goofy” around middle school students made him feel nervous and apprehensive initially.

“At the beginning, I didn’t see myself doing that because of the person I was, but I saw it as an opportunity for personal growth and also giving back and doing great community work,” Murphy said.

The Eagles athlete recalled the first few visits at a Washington, D.C. middle school where he was caught off-guard by their advanced knowledge levels on sexual health. Students already knew about antiretroviral drugs, the types of other medications needed to manage HIV, and the exchange of different bodily fluids can spread sexually transmitted diseases.

The District of Columbia Department of Health reported 12,322 D.C. residents, or 1.8% of the population, were living with HIV in late 2019. The humbling experience of not having answers, taught to mentors during training, moved Murphy to be a better listener and speak in a conversational tone.

“I talk to them as equals,” Murphy said. “Because I know that when I was that age, I didn’t like people talking down to me as if they were better than me or just because they’re were older than me, so they’re my equals.”

Along with his status as an American University student-athlete and a native of the area, students began to gravitate towards him.

“Being a Black student-athlete from Prince George’s County, you can go into one of the middle schools and impart to someone just basically being someone who looks like them and who is doing something that they want to do, which could potentially be a D-I athlete, or it could be to go to a college,” Murphy said.

Admittedly, having students trust him to share their lives with him can take its toll on Murphy. The discipline instilled in him as a wrestler pushes him to strive for perfection and shoulder their experiences with multiple conversations.

His journey began at Northwestern, where he went 85-30 during his career, leading him to American. The sport’s push for excellence helped him “walk the walk” in becoming a better mentor for his students.

“I wouldn’t be at American University right now if it weren’t for wrestling,” “I would never have met my coach while I was in high school, which allowed me to have that access to American University and had that connection to be able to go to American or be a part of The Grassroot Project.”

Murphy recently received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and has begun working towards his master’s degree. He plans to return to the mat for the 2020-21 season as a redshirt senior wrestler while completing the course work for his advanced degree a year early.

Murphy also plans to continue his work with The Grassroot Project as a paid internship program, while helping the organization revisit the mental health curriculum. He hopes to add listening sessions that tackle topics like systematic racism stemming from the protests fueled by the death of George Floyd.

Had the pandemic not occurred, Murphy believes students would have used the program to discuss police brutality and its effects on mental health in their community. The desire to share one’s experiences inspired him to join together with University of Maryland wrestler and Fort Washington native Jahi Jones in a two-part Instagram discussion on race in America.

His overall goal is to spread the importance of mental health in the African American community, and Murphy believes it starts with his work on a mentor. 

When asked about his thoughts of being looked up to, Murphy said his position as a role model goes beyond than his personal exploits as an athlete and relishes the opportunity to continue that path going forward.

“It’s being able to help them in any way, shape, or form, and that’s extremely important to me, as a psychology major, as a human being, and as a Black man,” Murphy said. “That’s extremely valuable to me to help when help is needed or make any type of impact, and I can.”

Howard’s Woods wins 2020 Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award

By The Sports Pulse Staff

WASHINGTON – During the 2020 ESPY Awards (June 21), former tennis champion and social activist Billie Jean King announced this year’s Youth Leadership Award winners where Howard University’s rising junior Niah Woods (Cincinnati) took home the prestigious award.

The Cincinnati native was one of seven winners acknowledged for their dedication in their respective communities.

Along with the other award winners, Woods will receive either a one-time $10,000 college scholarship or direct a grant to an eligible nonprofit aligned with their work. Among the other recipients is American University’s Elijah Murphy, the son of HU Hall of Famer Deborah Murphy from the women’s track & field program.

“I am extremely blessed and highly favored to receive this award,” said Woods. “Being recognized by someone who has had such a great impact in the world of sports is unbelievable.”

The Grassroot Project (TPG) capitalizes on the excitement, relatability, and popularity of sports to provide much-needed health literacy and social empowerment programs to D.C. teens. The program invests in leadership training, cultural competency, and professional skills.

“The Grassroot Project has impacted my life for the better,” Woods continued. “To be surrounded by a group of people who want to make an impact on people’s lives is truly incredible. This organization has helped shape what I desire to be in my future, it has also given me another reason to smile every day.”

Woods joins her Bison family and other student-athletes and teens in the D.C. area to make The District a healthier city. After one semester, she was named head volunteer.

“We are so proud of Niah,” said Howard Director of Athletics Kery Davis. “She exemplifies what it means to be a student-athlete in competition and academically while giving back to the community. She has a bright future ahead of her.”

Woods is a two-sport student-athlete at The Mecca, serving as a member of the women’s basketball team and women’s track & field team. The psychology major with a double minor in chemistry and sociology chose HU because of its HBCU culture. After graduation, she plans to be a psychiatrist and have her own practice firm.

Recently, Woods was named to the 2020 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Commissioner’s All-Academic Team.

“I am learning every day like the kids that I am teaching,” Woods concluded. “The work is truly outstanding, and I am grateful to be a part of it.”

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Sports Humanitarian Awards, normally separate from the ESPY Awards, were combined as part of one virtual celebration on the night.

The show was broadcasted on television nationwide throughout the U.S., hosted by WNBA Champion and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, Olympic Gold Medalist and OL Reign wing Megan Rapinoe and Super Bowl Champion and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

About the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award

The highly competitive nomination process for the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award selects and rewards young people for their leadership and commitment to improve their communities through sport. The selected nominees must: demonstrate how they are using the power of sport as a catalyst for change within their local school or community; be passionate and committed to empowering the community in which he/she/they live; deliver social impact showcasing how his/her/their community has been positively impacted; embody confidence and enthusiasm as a leader and have strong moral character; and personify exemplary leadership qualities on and off the field/court.

About the Grassroot Project

The Grassroot Project (TGP) is a 501(3)(c) non-profit organization that uses the power of sport to advance health equity for DC youth and their communities through NCAA athlete-driven health programs. These programs focus on topics surrounding sexual health, nutrition, and mental health in a three-year pipeline for middle school students facilitated by volunteers from American University, Georgetown University, Howard University, and George Washington University.

Former Bison soccer player gives back through social media challenge

By The Sports Pulse Staff

WASHINGTON – Hailing from Miami, Donny-Joshua Felix was a four-year starter on the Howard University men’s soccer team where he played more than 70 contests for the Bison.

After three years under HU alum Michael Lawrence, the South Florida native played his final season under head coach Phillip Gyau in his first year at the helm, competing in 19 matches.

In 2015, Felix graduated from The Mecca and pursued a professional soccer career for more than three years.

Although injuries derailed his aspirations of playing professionally, Felix discovered the importance of a healthy lifestyle while cultivating a desire to learn how to properly train.

Felix’s new goal is to train others in proper movement and help athletes reach their optimal performance while decreasing their chance of injury.

In addition, Felix hopes to empower and motivate others, especially millennials, to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. Viewing this as his purpose in life, he has begun working towards this dream by starting a #RunWithMeChallenge on social media, which began April 20, 2020. This purpose helps promote consistency and accountability through running but has gotten much bigger than expected.

Having his good friend NBA standout Elfrid Payton of the New York Knicks, along with others from the NBA community, share and tag the challenge caused a tremendous spread within two days of posting.

Considering the ongoing success of the #RunWithMeChallenge, Felix continues to make this his mission to inspire others.

Congratulations to HU athletes, staff represented during the Bison Awards 2020

By The Sports Pulse Staff

WASHINGTON – The Howard University Department of Athletics announced its annual Bison Awards through the department’s social media platforms.

The two-week celebration gave student-athletes, coaches, parents, and fans an opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievements during the shorten 2019-20 season.

Before awards were announced, Director of Athletics Kery Davis presented the Bison Family with a 45-second informational video on social media, expressing everyone to use the hashtag #BISONAWARDS2020.

On May 4, Athletics began with departmental accolades and recognition, followed by team awards.

Below are the following winners (sorted by teams):

  • Departmental Accolades & Recognition
    • Men’s Highest Team GPA – Swimming & Diving
    • Women’s Highest Team GPA – Tennis
    • Male Highest Individual GPA – Noah Nicholas (Stone Mountain, Ga./Swimming & Diving/3.88 GPA)
    • Female Highest Individual GPA – Kaylah Clark (Miami/Track & Field/4.00 GPA)
    • Men’s Life Skill Award – Football
    • Women’s Life Skill Award – Track & Field
    • Male Iron Bison – Dedrick Parson (Philadelphia/Football)
    • Female Iron Bison – Camille Navarro (Los Angeles/Softball)
    • Athletic Director Award – Kyle Anthony (Miramar, Fla./Football)
    • Newly Elected 2020-21 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee:
      • President – Tiffany Hunt (Bridgewater, N.J./Women’s Lacrosse)
      • Vice-President – Zachyre Lane (Durham, N.C./Women’s Track & Field)
      • Secretary – Rebecca Akande (Somerset, N.J./Women’s Track & Field)
      • Treasurer – Kaylah Clark (Miami/Women’s Track & Field)
  • Men’s Basketball
    • MVP – Charles Williams (Richmond, Va.)
    • Rookie of the Year – Wayne Bristol, Jr. (Upper Marlboro, Md.)
    • Most Improved – Nate Garvey (Nanuet, N.Y.)
    • Spirit Award – Philip Jones (Atlanta)
    • Highest GPA – Nate Garvey (Nanuet, N.Y./3.82 GPA)
  • Women’s Basketball
    • MVP – Ayonna Williams (Washington)
    • Rookie of the Year – Iyanna Warren (Accokeek, Md.)
    • Defensive Player of the Year – Imani Bryant (Berkeley, Calif.)
    • Most Improved – Gia Thorpe (Pittsburgh)
    • Highest GPA – Jayla Thornton (Newark, N.J./3.81 GPA)
  • Bowling
    • MVP – Carolyn Williams (Glen Burnie, Md.)
    • Rookie of the Year – Vanessa Johnson (Chicago)
    • Most Improved – Jahnia Phillips (Elmont, N.Y.)
    • Above & Beyond Achievement Award – Janae Bradford (Chicago)
    • Highest GPA – Jahnia Phillips (Elmont, N.Y./3.79 GPA)
  • Men’s Cross Country
    • MVP – Gavin Williams (Dover, Del.)
    • Most Improved – Matthew Marchbanks (Chicago)
    • Highest GPA – Steven Imes IV (Los Angeles/3.61 GPA)
  • Women’s Cross Country
    • MVP – Melanie White (Orlando, Fla.)
    • Rookie of the Year – Breanna McDonald (Bethesda, Md.)
    • Most Improved – Dasia Wilson (Philadelphia)
    • Highest GPA – Ameenah Saalih (Willingboro, N.J./3.8 GPA)
  • Football
    • MVP – Dedrick Parson (Philadelphia)
    • Rookie of the Year – Ray Williams (Detroit)
    • Most Improved – Branden Johnson (Baltimore)
    • Bison Standard – DaShawn Simon (Baltimore)
    • Highest GPA – Faraji Woodson (Greensboro, N.C./3.87 GPA)
  • Women’s Lacrosse
    • Rookies of the Year – Josie Mallory (Charlottesville, Va.) & Quai Skeete-Ridley (New Carrollton, Md.)
    • Highest GPA – Madison Joines (Winston-Salem, N.C./3.73 GPA)
  • Men’s Soccer
    • MVPs – Carlos Caro (Silver Spring, Md.) & Andres Gomez (Silver Spring, Md.)
    • Rookie of the Year – Joseph Abusada (Houston)
    • Most Improved – Emery Simon (Elkhart, Ind.)
    • Highest GPA – Nicholas Turk (Las Vegas/3.76 GPA)
  • Women’s Soccer
    • MVPs – Alayah Hightower (Mitchellville, Md.) & Victoria Thornton (Plainfield, Ill.)
    • Rookie of the Year – Arianna Morgan (Oklahoma City)
    • Most Improved – Kenya Saunders (Ontario, Canada)
    • Highest GPA – Makaelah Murray (Stockton, Calif./4.00 GPA)
  • Softball
    • MVP – Kalita Dennis (Elk Grove, Calif.)
    • Rookie of the Year – Luz Aguilasocho (Grand Terrace, Calif.)
    • Pitcher of the Year – Brooke Thomas (Detroit)
    • Most Improved – Camille Navarro (Los Angeles)
    • Highest GPA – Ayana Sallee (Chesapeake, Va./4.00 GPA)
  • Men’s Swimming & Diving
    • MVP – Jalen Watson (Miami)
    • Rookie of the Year – Miles Simon (Atlanta)
    • Most Improved – Josiah Scott (Cedar Park, Texas)
    • Highest GPA – Noah Nicholas (Stone Mountain, Ga./3.90 GPA)
  • Women’s Swimming & Diving
    • MVP – Christian Nickolas (Brentwood, Calif.)
    • Rookie of the Year – Asha Evans (Atlanta)
    • Most Improved – Madison Freeland (Glenside, Pa.)
    • Highest GPA – Tiffanee Moore (Tallahassee, Fla./4.00 GPA)
  • Men’s Tennis
    • Rookie of the Year – Romani Mayers (Bridgetown, Barbados)
    • Most Improved – Kyle Martin (Kingston, Jamaica)
    • Highest GPA – Roger Lyn, Jr. (Kingston, Jamaica/3.63 GPA)
  • Women’s Tennis
    • Rookie of the Year – Yemisi Ifederu (London, England)
    • Most Improved – Alexandra Blackwell (Austin, Texas)
    • Highest GPA – Aria Ragas (Johns Creek, Ga./3.93 GPA)
  • Men’s Indoor Track & Field
    • MVP – Kameron Davis (Miami)
    • Rookie of the Year – Nnamdi Olebara (Bowie, Md.)
    • Most Improved – Gavin Williams (Dover, Del.)
    • Highest GPA – Steven Imes IV (Los Angeles/3.61 GPA)
  • Women’s Indoor Track & Field
    • MVP – Jessika Gbai (Philadelphia)
    • Rookie of the Year – Dasia Wilson (Philadelphia)
    • Most Improved – Ameenah Saalih (Willingboro, N.J.)
    • Highest GPA – Kaylah Clark (Miami/4.00 GPA)
  • Women’s Volleyball
    • MVP – Kira Porter (Lake Tahoe, Nev.)
    • Rookie of the Year – Tamar Wells (Apopka, Fla.)
    • Most Improved – Marcelle Butler (Canton, Ga.) & Kailyn Williams (Arlington, Texas)
    • Highest GPAs – Nina Askew (Fairfax, Va./4.00 GPA) & Asha Johnson (Oakland, Calif./4.00 GPA)

A one-on-one with the MEAC All-time Leading Scorer

Former Howard playmaker Charles Williams stands out above the rest

By Howard Legal Communications Major Lydia Jules

WASHINGTON – Howard University rising junior legal communications major Lydia Jules chatted with Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) All-Time Leading Scorer Charles Williams (Richmond, Va.), asking 10 questions for the 2019-20 Senior Profile series.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a Howard student-athlete?

A: Howard shows a lot of love to their student-athletes. It’s real love because the HU community tells you what you need to hear, good or bad. At the end of the day, Howard always comes through and praises you when things get done.

Q: How did you get started in basketball?

A: I started playing basketball at four years old. Around the same time, I used to love watching Space Jam and Michael Jordan highlights with my dad.

Years later, I watched Lebron James and Kobe Bryant highlights, constantly, while trying to emulate every single one of their moves. I played AAU, along with other organized basketball programs, and between ninth and tenth grade, I became pretty good.

Howard was my first scholarship offer and once I took my official visit during HU Homecoming, I was sold. During my visit, I fell in love with the people and my future teammates were extremely inviting as they welcomed me into the fold.

Q: What kept you motivated?

A: My motivation was to reach my full potential on and off the court, becoming the best basketball player and person I could be.

For basketball, I play to the best of my ability so I can make this a means to provide for my family. As a person, I was raised to be a respectful individual with integrity, and it was through that I learned my opportunities presented itself.

Q: If you were not competing in basketball, what other sport would you play?

A: I would probably have played either football or baseball. When I was younger, I remember playing football one day as a wide receiver where I turned my head way too hard. At that moment, I realized this was not the sport for me (haha).

Q: Who is your favorite athlete and why?

A: Lebron James is most definitely my favorite athlete because I love the way he represents himself on and off the court. He has never been involved with any scandals since arriving in the NBA as a teenager and whenever you hear his name, it’s always positive. He is definitely my role model.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A:  I will be talking to agents as far as trying to get interviews with NBA teams while getting an opportunity to work out or play with them as well.

Q: What or who will you miss at Howard?

A: I will probably miss dorm life with my friends and teammates the most. Those interactions with the same people every day are moments I will always remember.

Q: What advice would you give to future Bison?

A: My advice to future Bison would be to network and connect with as many people as possible. Networking is so important because you never know who you will come across in the future.

Q: Who would you like to thank?

A: I would like to thank my coaches and teammates for their support. Also, all my friends who attended the games no matter the outcome.

Lastly, I would like to thank my professors and everyone who supported me to this point.

Q: Any lasting remarks?

A: It was an emotional roller coaster with many good and tough times; but nonetheless, it was a memorable ride. There is no other school or community I would rather attend than Howard University. Don’t worry, I will be back.

About Williams

Charles Williams was a four-year member of the men’s basketball team, ending his collegiate career as the school’s all-time leading scorer. The Virginia native chose HU because he wanted to take the program to new heights, which he achieved during his junior campaign by guiding the club to its first postseason tourney since 1992 (Roman College Basketball Invitational).

Williams finished his illustrious career as the MEAC All-Time Scoring Leader, producing 2,404 points. He racked up numerous individual accolades along the way, including 2016-17 MEAC Rookie of the Year.

In May 2020, the three-time BOXTOROW All-American graduated with a degree in health management. Currently, Williams plans to pursue a career in the NBA.

Howard revamps volleyball roster with new talent

By The Sports Pulse Staff

WASHINGTON – Howard University women’s volleyball program revealed its 2020 signing class, featuring two outside hitters, two liberos and a setter.

Last season, HU defeated No. 2 Morgan State University, 3-2, to capture its fifth consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Volleyball Championship.

“We are excited with the caliber of student-athletes that make up our 2020 [signing] class,” said Howard women’s volleyball head coach Shaun Kupferberg. “These young women represent the qualities of Howard University on the court and in the classroom. Their enthusiasm about the game and preparation will make them a big part of our next step forward as a program.”

The 2020 Bison class includes outside hitters Kendall Smith (Glenview, Ill.) and Jennifer Bolden (Los Angeles), liberos Amari Patterson (Waukegan, Ill.) and Remy James (Simpsonville, S.C.) and setter Milexa Cardona (Orlando, Fla.).

Kendall Smith (5-10 / Glenbrook South HS / Sky High / Glenview, Ill.) – Outside Hitter

Smith is a high-level student-athlete, who led her team to its best finish in two decades this past year. Through her prep career, she earned numerous accolades, including all-conference and MVP twice. This year, Smith was selected to the all-area team and unanimously named Central Suburban Conference Athlete of the Year.

“Kendall [Smith] is a dynamic six rotation outside [hitter],” Kupferberg explained. “Her athletic ability allows her to play at an elite level and we are excited to see her compete in our gym next year. Her full potential rivals anyone we’ve seen come through our program.”

Off the court, Smith’s performance in the classroom earned her academic honors all four years at Glenbrook South High School. She will study in Howard’s School of Business, focusing on marketing.

Jennifer Bolden (6-0 / Notre Dame HS / Mizuno Long Beach / Los Angeles, Calif.) – Outside Hitter

Between the lines, Bolden took Notre Dame High School to back-to-back league championships while being named all-league three times for her contributions.

“Jennifer [Bolden] gives us a strong lefty swing that is used to competing against some of the top players in the country,” Kupferberg stated. “She has every tool needed to become a high-level student-athlete, if she works hard over the next few years.”

She excelled academically in in the classroom which led to four all-academic awards while being chosen for multiple leadership and mentorship roles. Bolden will major in Sports Medicine with plans of becoming an anesthesiologist.

Amari Patterson (5-3 / Waukegan HS / Sky High / Waukegan, Ill.) – Libero

Patterson was a standout defender during her time at Waukegan High School. In competition, she earned MVP, all-conference and all-area honors while leaving as the Bulldog’s the all-time dig leader (1,379).

“I still remember watching Amari [Patterson] with her red shoes flashing around the court making tough plays look easy,” Kupferberg recalled. “She caught our eye and I immediately knew we needed to get her on our squad. If she continues to study the game, Amari will cause headaches for our opponents.”

Patterson will enroll in Howard’s School of Business, preparing for a career in marketing.

Remy James (5-7 / JL Mann HS / Carolina Juniors / Simpsonville, S.C.) – Libero

James led her team to their first regional championship at JL Mann High school. She was put on the JVA and AVCA Phenom Watch List while earning multiple all-tournament and all-regional awards. She leaves JL Mann holding the all-time dig record (1,247).

“Remy [James] covers so much ground with her quick feet that she will definitely pick up a lot of digs throughout her four years,” Kupferberg expressed. “Once we get her settled into our defensive system, her only limitations will be the ones she sets for herself.”

James will major in Political Science with preparation for law school. The South Carolina native plans to become a defense attorney.

Milexa Cardona (5-7 / Polk State JC / Top Select / Orlando, Fla.) – Setter

During her prep career, Cardona received several awards, including MVP, an AAU All-Star and three-time All-County. Last year, she led the Polk State volleyball program to a conference championship while finishing fourth nationally.

“Milexa [Cardona] adds another strong setter to our program,” Kupferberg said. “She has the maturity and consistency that can help us grow our capabilities on offense. We will have to get her up to speed, quickly, this fall, but she has the ability to handle that pressure and thrive.”

Cardona will enter Howard’s School of Communications with career plans in broadcasting or journalism.

Bison men’s basketball team reloads with local and international talent

By The Sports Pulse Staff

WASHINGTON – The Howard University men’s basketball team welcomed nine additions to the Bison Family, featuring five from the DMV.

“These nine student-athletes bring tons of talent and leadership to the table,” said Howard Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kenneth Blakeney. “Each student-athlete comes from a program with winning traditions. I’m extremely excited for the upcoming season.”

Rahim Ali, Jr. (Baltimore Poly/Baltimore, Md.) – Guard

Through the Beltway, Ali arrives at The Hilltop, where he guided nationally ranked Baltimore Poly to three regional and state titles. The four-year starter was a two-time All-Metro and City Champion.

“Rahim [Ali] has made a name for himself as a proven winner,” said Blakeney. “He’s a leader that brings great energy and spirit to our team. I’m excited about him because he’s super competitive and will bring an edge to our team.”

Sam Green (Drexel University/McNamara Catholic H.S./DMV) – Forward

Green brings valuable leadership after playing collegiate at Drexel University. During his stint with the Dragons, he earned the team’s Freshman Most Improved Player award while being named a team captain and starter during his senior campaign.

“We are excited to have him back in the DMV,” Blakeney stated. “He brings experience and leadership to our young group. Offensively, he is a big-time threat with his ability to shoot and make decisions.” In high school, Green attended Bishop McNamara, where he was a four-year starter and earned All-WCAC Third Team honors.

He was also a member of AAU’s D.C. Assault, winning multiple championships along the way. “Sam [Green] is a winner going back to his D.C. Assault AAU days,” Blakeney added. “I’m really excited he chose to be a Bison.”

Spencer Hayes (St. Andrew’s Episcopal/DMV) – Guard

Hayes is another product from the DMV, hailing from Upper Marlboro, Md. In 2020, he led his squad to the MAC Regular Season and Tournament Championships while being named to the All-Conference Team. He was also selected to the St. Andrews Winter Invitational All-Tournament Team twice (2019 & 2020).

“Spencer [Hayes] is very skilled, long and tough,” Blakeney said. “He’s a Swiss Army knife, playing multiple positions on the perimeter. With that versatility, he could be an impact on the defensive side of the ball.”

In AAU, he played for New World; that team won the Hoop Group Jam Fest Championship.

Christian Johnson (Ron Brown H.S./DMV) – Forward

Johnson made DCIAA All-League First Team after averaging a double-double (17 PPG and 12 RPG) at Ron Brown H.S. He was named two-time athlete of the year at his high school while being named Mr. Ron Brown because of his academic and athletic leadership.

“Christian [Johnson] is a long and explosive athlete, who’s best basketball is ahead of him,” said Blakeney. “He has a chance to be an elite defender with his length because he’s able to defend four positions. He’s also a good 3-point shooter, that’s only going to get better.”

He played AAU with Team BISS from Potomac, Md., and plans to major in Finance at The Mecca.

Amir Rahimzad (Edge School [Canada]/Gorgan, Iran) – Forward

Rahimzad attended Edge School in Canada, where he averaged a double-double (15 PPG and 10 RPG) during the 2019-20 season, after recovering from an ACL during the U19 FIBA World Cup Championship. In his final year, he was ranked the seventh-best student-athlete in Canada.

“Amir [Rahimzad] is a very skilled, big-body versatile forward that comes to Howard University with international and National team experience,” Blakeney explained.

“He has competed at the highest level of competition, playing for his National team, Iran. His ability to dribble, pass and shoot at 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds allows us to be versatile and interchangeable.”

Born in Iran, he was a captain on the U18 Iranian National Team, where he guided the club to a U18 FIBA Asian Championship after producing 18 ppg, 11 RPG and five APG.

Deven Richmond (Howard C.C./DMV) – Guard

Richmond comes to Howard after two years at Howard County C.C., where he averaged 20 PPG and six RPG in his first season. In his two seasons, the Maryland native racked up over 800 points while leading the squad to a 2020 Region XX Championship.

“Deven [Richmond] played his high school ball at DeMatha Catholic [H.S.] for Coach Mike Jones,” Blakeney stated. “He’s skilled and fundamentally sound, an explosive student-athlete that will give us maturity.”

He played for the Stags, where he was a two-sport student-athlete (basketball and track). On the hardwood, he was a two-time All-WCAC selection and won the 2018 WCAC Championship. In track, he was named Field Event Most Valuable Player and won the 2018 Track and Field WCAC Title.

Isaac Suffren (Lafayette College/Providence Day/Charlotte, N.C.) – Guard

After playing a season at Lafayette, Suffren transferred to The Mecca where he had an outstanding high school career at Providence Day School. The Charlotte native averaged 18 PPG and seven rpg while reaching the 1,000-point club. He was named twice to the All-Conference Team.

“Isaac [Suffren] gives us a maturity that will be welcomed, especially with such a young team,” Blakeney explained. “He’s a highly-skilled, fundamentally sound player that will give us a lot of versatility on the perimeter because he can play different positions. Coming from a winning high school program at Providence Day School and spending time at Lafayette College, Isaac knows what it takes to compete and win.”

Suffren played for the Carolina Wolves (AAU), producing 20 PPG and five RPG. Currently, he holds the record for most points in a game at the Phenom Hoop Report High School Classic with 40 points.

Thomas Weaver (Riverdale Baptist/DMV) – Guard

Weaver hails from local Upper Marlboro, Md., where he made Capital Beltway League Second Team after leading his club in assists. He also competed in the Adidas Gauntlet Gold Circuit with the D.C. Thunder, where they finished Top 10 in 15u. “Thomas [Weaver] is battle-tested with a high IQ,” Blakeney elaborated.

“A point guard that can run a team while keeping defenses honest with his playmaking abilities and capability to knock down shots. His pedigree, background and work ethic will give us help with having a winning mentality.”

Jordan Wood (Cornerstone Christian/San Antonio, Texas) – Forward

Wood arrives in Washington, D.C. from San Antonio, where he was a unanimous All-District First Team selection at Cornerstone Christian.

Academically, he was named to the Academic First Team twice.

“Jordan [Wood] is a very skilled versatile wing that can dribble, pass and shoot,” Blakeney expressed. “I’m excited about his ability to be another playmaker for us, standing at 6-foot-9. His IQ and feel for the game will be huge for us to become a more efficient team.”

Bison among first to stampede in the historic Penn Relays

Howard Track & Field among the first HBCUs to compete at the historic Penn Relays

By Ashleigh Fields/Howard University Freshman Journalism Major

WASHINGTON – Every student-athlete who has entered the Howard University track and field office in the basement of Cook Hall has had the chance to admire the four circular plaques mounted on the wall. Engraved in gold are the words, “University of Pennsylvania Relay Carnival.”

Although many schools are now given a chance to compete at the prestigious meet, Howard was among the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to be granted admission to compete in 1920.

April would have been the 100-year celebration of HBCUs competing at the historic Penn Relays; however, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), this year’s festivities were canceled.

“We must make sure everyone is safe during these unprecedented times,” said Howard Director of Track & Field David Oliver. “When the time comes, we’ll be ready for the event.”

In 1942, Xavier (La.) became the first HBCU relay squad to win at the illustrious event, setting the standard in the men’s 440-yard relays. The team had Pittsburgh native Herb Douglas as its leadoff man, a three-time state champion (100-yard, 220-yard, & long jump) in high school. He received numerous offers, including his hometown University (Pittsburgh), but the Pitt Panthers refused to offer him financial aid; instead he accepted a scholarship from Xavier’s coach Ralph Metcalfe.

“The first year we were eligible, we came back up in 1942 and beat Pitt in the 440 relay,” Douglas said. “To win a championship at the Penn Relays, we could say was the equivalent of winning an Olympic medal.”

Douglas, 97, has remained a Penn Relays official long enough to celebrate the 100th year of HBCU participation in 2020.

In Howard’s history, the relay events have been a cornerstone throughout generations of Bison with a plethora of All-Americans, including the 4×400 relay squad of Richard LouisKenny WilsonDavid Charlton and Oliver Bridges that won the 1983 Penn Relays Championship of America.

“It was a great experience,” said Bridges, who was the anchor on that championship relay team. “When you win the Championship of America at the Penn Relays, it’s an awesome accomplishment. It took a superb team effort.”

William “Bill” Ritchie, a 1971 HU graduate, holds the distinction of being the first known NCAA All-American in school history, competed in the Penn Relays where he was a member of the 1967 squad that took home the gold in the freshmen consolation mile. Ritchie’s team included Ron LassiterTyrone Malloy and Paul Mathis.

The 1967 HU Track Relay Team (L to R – Bill Ritchie, Paul Mathis, Tyrone Malloy & Ron Lassiter). Courtesy Photo/Howard University Athletics.

“It was my honor to represent Howard University [at the Penn Relays],” Ritchie recalls. “The event was like no other in the track and field world, except for the Olympics. The Penn Relays created memories that will live with me forever.”

From 1967 through 1970, Ritchie participated at the Penn Relays where he also earned a pair of medals in the men’s 100-yard dash (1969 and 1970).

Howard has its list of Bison in the history books, with names like Theresa AllenZachary JonesBrenda Bailey, and former Olympic and Howard coach Bill Moultrie, just to name a few.

Oliver, a former Olympian and Penn Relay champion in the 110 hurdles, was eager to see what this year held for all the team in the storied event.

“This was destined to be a huge edition of the Penn Relays from a HBCU perspective,” Oliver commented. “I think all of us were looking forward to this special edition. The cancelation of this year’s event, while unfortunate, is not a denial of an opportunity for the HBCUs; it is just a dream deferred for another year.”

Oliver (2000-04) knows how special it is to run at the Penn Relays. During his senior campaign under coach the late Coach Michael Merritt, he was a member of the 4×400 relay team that was victorious in their section. Later, he also competed professionally in the shuttle hurdles where the squad set a world-best performance.

In 2018, Oliver returned to his alma mater, where he saw long jumper Dominique Cleggett take first-place at The Relays, becoming the first HU female student-athlete to win an individual event since 1985.

“It was a cool experience competing against some of the top student-athletes in the country,” said Cleggett. “It was awesome. I am glad that I had the opportunity to be there.”

There is no denying Howard amongst other HBCUs brought a powerful presence to Penn Relays during each year of participation. And when things return to normal, it hopes to continue to do the same.

The University of Pennsylvania conducted a digital version of the renowned event Friday (April 24) from noon to 5 p.m.

About the Penn Relays

The Penn Relays (also Penn Relays Carnival) is the oldest and largest track and field competition in the United States, hosted annually since April 21, 1895, by the University of Pennsylvania at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.