Notre Dame Plays HBCU On Road For The First Time On MLK Day

What was originally planned as a two-game home-and-home series between Notre Dame and Howard University and a way to reconnect with former players, has turned into something much more.

On Monday, January 18th, 2021 the Fighting Irish will visit the Howard Bison in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day clash.

The game will be played at Burr Gymnasium on the campus of “HU”. 

It will be the first time Notre Dame plays a road game against one of the country’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), and it comes at a time when racial issues are at a fervor in the country.

The two schools agreed to the home-and-home last year because Howard’s head coach Kenny Blakeney was an assistant for current Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey at Delaware from 1997-2000. Former Notre Dame point guard and captain Eric Atkins — also from the D.C. area  — is currently an assistant for Blakeney. 

These two teams clashed last November with the Irish winning (79-50) at Purcell Pavilion.

The original plan was to play Howard on December 12th, as part of a tour through D.C. which also included a matchup with former Big East rival Georgetown. As the ND program searched for the best way to remain active participants in the push for social change, a visit to one of our nation’s top HBCUs on Martin Luther King Jr. Day will provide an excellent educational experience for the student-athletes, coaches, support staff and university. 

The nation will watch with eager anticipation as we get our first look at five-star recruit Makur Maker against elite competition.

Maker is the courageous baller who took the leap and broke the monopoly that PWI’s have had on elite Black recruits. Maker committed to Howard in July, becoming the highest-ranked college basketball prospect to commit to a historically Black college or university since the ESPN recruiting database popped off in 2007.

READ MORE: Makur Maker Steps Up To Pioneer A New Hoops Recruiting Culture For HBCUs

Notre Dame has hosted 10 different HBCUs for 12 games, but this debut on the road against one on MLK Day is also significant because Washington D.C., is second to none when it comes to producing the greatest lineup in Fighting Irish Basketball annals. 

Head coach Mike Brey and associate head coach Rod Balanis both played and graduated from nearby superpower DeMatha High School, while Irish junior point guard Prentiss Hubb played at and graduated from Gonzaga High. Atkins and Jerami Grant- the most recent Notre Dame first-round NBA pick are also from the D.C. area. 

READ MORE: The Future Of Howard University Athletics Reaches A Pivotal Moment

The D.C. pipeline of premier African-American basketball matriculating to South Bend Indiana began in 1965 with the late Bob Whitmore, who in 2019 was inducted into the program’s Ring Of Honor.

Following Whitmore in 1967, was the triumvirate of Austin Carr, Collis Jones, and Sid Catlett. This trio just happened to be the 1,17 and 55 picks in the 1971 NBA Draft, with Carr still the school’s all-time leading scorer and the No.2 in scoring average (34.6 PPG) in NCAA history, trailing LSU’s “Pistol” Pete Maravich. 

The 1970s continued this trend with Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame inductee Adrian Dantley, Don “Duck” Williams, and Tracy Jackson, while the 1980s included Tom Sluby and Monty Williams, the current head coach of the Phoenix Suns. 

Former school President Emeritus Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C. also is from D.C. and played basketball for the Irish in the 1960s. 

Mike Brey tried to have the entire ACC play an HBCU on the road for MLK Day in honor of the great Dr. King and to show that they are in touch with important social issues and also committed to change.  

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