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Rich Heritage Classic Basketball Diaries: “The Introduction”

By Tom Ballato

It wasn’t long ago that I started interviewing basketball players worldwide, learning about and sharing their basketball journeys. An idea that began one afternoon has opened doors that I’ve never imagined and introduced me to many new people, college programs, and life overseas. 

This idea would be very time-consuming. I would spend hours looking through old NBA rosters, NBA Drafts, and looking up some former college basketball players who didn’t make it to the NBA. I would then try my luck and message these athletes through social media.

My research and networking introduced me to former Hampton standout and Los Angeles Laker Devin Green. I reached out because you don’t often see a kid from Hampton playing in the NBA, which sparked my interest. While Green played one season in Los Angeles, he went on to have a very successful career overseas. 

I originally wanted to highlight his college career, year in Los Angeles, and his overseas career. However, when Green spoke about Hampton, he talked about its history and how proud he was to play at an HBCU. Green introduced me to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), something I didn’t know much about.  I always knew about Hampton and other HBCUs, but I never knew the deep history behind these programs. 

HBCUs have made their mark in college basketball (15-seeded Norfolk State upset Missouri in the NCAA Tournament in 2002 led by Kyle O’Quinn was the earliest upset by an HBCU I can remember), but what hurts them is the lack of funding and exposure. 

Recently five-star Makur Maker’s commitment to Howard might’ve changed that. He became the highest-ranked prospect to commit to a Historically Black College or University since “ranking players” first started in 1982. Maker has changed the narrative that you don’t need to attend UCLA, Kentucky, or Memphis to get noticed. “I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow,” Maker said on Twitter. 

I never thought that my interview with Green would lead to something bigger. When he reached out with the idea of creating a basketball diary that highlights prominent figures in the Rich Heritage Classic, I was excited about the opportunity. 

Together we hope to highlight the careers and share the stories of athletes and coaches that attended HBCU and will be part of the Rich Heritage Classic. There aren’t many publications on athletes and coaches that accomplished a lot at their respective schools, another narrative we hope to change.

The Rich Heritage Basketball Diaries will highlight members of the board who have stories and experiences important within the HBCU space and highlight the development of the Rich Heritage Classic leading up to the event’s start.

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