Howard University hosts send-off for men’s basketball team ahead of NCAAs

The Howard University men’s basketball team is competing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1992. The school showed its appreciation Tuesday as a crowd gathered for an exciting send-off.

“There’s definitely a buzz,” said small forward Steve Settle III. “We work as hard as any team in the country.”

With music playing in the background, students and fans cheered as team members showed up one by one and boarded a bus.

“We’ve been trusting the work all season and we’ve seen the results so we’re going to just keep trusting that work,” Settle said.

Howard takes on Kansas Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.

“We’re incredibly excited,” said Kery Davis, the university’s athletic director. “We could be playing this game in Alaska or Des Moines, it doesn’t matter we’re going to fly there on cloud nine.”

The Bison are facing fierce competition from the Jayhawks, who won the Big Dance last year.

On Tuesday, fans and students at Howard University gave an enthusiastic send-off for the Bison as they headed to the NCAA tournament. (WTOP / Nick Ianelli)

Settle said he expects he’ll be “a little nervous” before the game.

“Once they tip the ball up, though, it’s basketball at that point,” Settle said. “I’ve been playing basketball my whole life and so has the team.”

Head coach Kenny Blakeney said the send-off was “a special moment” for everyone involved.

“They’ll go out and play for the DMV and for Howard University,” said Blakeney. “We have a long legacy of greatness, and I know our players will represent that greatness.”

On Tuesday, fans and students at Howard University gave an enthusiastic send-off for the Bison as they headed to the NCAA tournament. (WTOP / Nick Ianelli)

Howard’s last March Madness appearance in 1992 was a 100-67 loss against top-seeded Kansas. Back then, Blakeney was a 20-year-old Duke sophomore on a Blue Devils squad that repeated as national champions.

Blakeney will lead the No. 16 seed Bison (22-12) against the defending national champion and top-seeded Jayhawks again, this time in a West Region first-round game.

Howard topped Norfolk State 65-64 for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament championship, capping a remarkable turnaround from 4-29 in Blakeney’s debut season in 2019-2020 to their first regular-season and tournament titles since that last trip to the Big Dance.

The D.C. school is one of two historically Black colleges and universities in the tournament.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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