Historically Black colleges and universities’ basketball teams will take the national stage from the Footprint Center Sunday, November 28, and Monday, November 29, thanks to Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul.
Airing on ESPN Networks, the inaugural Boost Mobile HBCU Challenge was created by Paul in partnership with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Hitting the court are Norfolk State, Grambling State, Morgan State and Hampton universities.
“It’s designed to highlight HBCU basketball and schools around the country,” says Greg Procino, the vice president of events and partnerships with the Basketball Hall of Fame. “That along with the culture of the HBCU communities and what they believe in make this event different.”
Paul was the mastermind behind this event, as supporting HBCUs is something he deeply cares about.
“I’m so excited for the chance to give these players the opportunity to experience something not usually available to HBCU student-athletes and compete on a national stage,” Paul says.
Virginia-based Norfolk State finished in first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) last season with a 17-8 overall record and 8-4 in conference games. It secured a spot in the NCAA tournament, where it lost to Gonzaga in the first round. NSU beat Morgan State last season to secure its trip to the tournament.
Baltimore, Maryland’s Morgan State ended the season 14-8 and just a game behind Norfolk State in the MEAC with an in-conference record of 7-5.
Grambling State, a part of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, finished the 2020-21 season at 12-11 and placed fourth in the conference, where it went 9-6. The university is listed on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Based in Hampton, Virginia, and a member of the Big South Conference, Hampton University had an 11-14 record, going 9-9 in BSC games, and finished seventh out of 11 teams.
While this is the first year for the event, Procino and others involved are hopeful that this will become an annual event.
“We want everyone involved to feel good about the end result of the event this year, and that will determine the possibility of next year,” Procino says.
He says the event will not only bring publicity to the HBCUs, but it will promote college basketball as a whole.
“It’ll bring a new and good way for teams to compete as well as show what the HBCUs do for their students and players,’’ Procino said.
Phoenix is the ideal destination for the event because of the arena and Paul’s availability, Procino says.
“It allowed for the best opportunity for Chris to attend and be more involved,” Procino says.
“We hope it’s well received and that the schools and players involved get a lot of exposure and it’s an overall good experience for them. We also hope that Chris and his family will feel good about making this event a reality this year.”
Boost Mobile HBCU Challenge hosted by Chris Paul
When: Games start at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 28, and 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday, November 29
Where: Footprint Center, 201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix
Cost: Tickets start at $30