Howard University will host Notre Dame on Monday, Jan. 17, in the Martin Luther King Jr. Classic, so named in honor of the late civil rights activist. The game, which will be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports, features a Power 5 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) team in the Fighting Irish pitted against the Bison of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), an HBCU conference.
Tipoff will be 2:30 EST with a pre-game presentation beginning at 2 p.m.
Originally scheduled to be played last year, the game would be canceled due to the coronavirus.
“This game came about as a result of a conversation that I had with Mike Brey,” said Kenny Blakeney, Howard head coach. “I have always had great respect for him. He is a progressive thinker and he saw this as an opportunity to educate his young student-athletes on the value of history of African Americans. Bringing a Notre Dame to the campus of Howard University is a rare and unique experience for these young people.”
The game will be played at Burr Gymnasium, marking the first time that the Bison have hosted a team from the ACC. Notre Dame, riding a five-game winning streak, has two ACC showdowns on the weekend prior to coming to the District. Meanwhile, Howard (6-6) which has not played since Dec. 21, will take on Norfolk State in a crucial MEAC game at Burr on Saturday, Jan. 15.
Blakeney and Mike Brey, head coach at Notre Dame, both played at local powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School. Blakeney then played at Duke University and later he and Brey both coached there where they would be part of two national championship teams. Blakeney served as an assistant under Brey when he was head coach at the University of Delaware.
Howard assistant coach Tyler Dragon, a Duke alum, played his prep ball at local Gonzaga High School and senior guard Prentiss Hubbs, one of the key players for the Irish, also played at Gonzaga. Howard associate head coach Rod Balanis coached at Notre Dame for 21 years with Brey before coming to the Hilltop this year.
The Howard team, off to a good start, features a number of local players who have added to their success: sophomore forward/guard Steve Settle, III and freshman guard Elijah Hawkins, a strong candidate for MEAC Rookie of the Year, both prepped at DeMatha while graduate senior forward Sam Green (Bowie, MD), senior guard Deven Richmond (also of Bowie) and sophomore guard Thomas Weaver (Riverdale Baptist) all hail from this talent-rich area.
“I think this provides an opportunity to showcase the talent of basketball in the DMV area,” Blakeney said. “Historically, a number of local players have starred at Notre Dame over the years.”
And if that is not enough fanfare to pique your interest, consider this: Gus Johnson, a future Hall of Fame broadcaster and an HU alum, will be calling the play-by-play action for Fox Sports.
“To come home to Howard on a special day like MLK Day and to be able to do the game is special,” Johnson said. “This is truly a great opportunity. It will be like coming home for me.”
“Brey, the winningest coach in Notre Dame history with almost 450 wins, expressed excitement about his institution and his team participating in the event.
“It’s an absolute honor to be on the Hoard University campus on MLK Day,” Brey said. “My players and their parents have asked about this game all season. It’s a powerful educational experience for our players and for all of the Notre Dame family.”