The Howard University men’s basketball team is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1992, and on Sunday night, the team learned it’ll face the reigning champion in the first round.
Fortunately for them, the Howard Bison are used to proving the naysayers wrong.
Getting to this point after 31 years was anything but easy. When it mattered most, it was guard Jelani Williams – a hometown hero – who hit two clutch free throws to give the team the lead in the MEAC tournament final and win the game 65-64 against Norfolk State University.
How does he stay cool under pressure from the line? He says his dad taught him to sing a lullaby in his head to calm his nerves.
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“The only thing going through my mind as I got to the line [was] I took a deep breath and I started to sing as I went through my routine, and was blessed enough to make the two free throws,” he said. “Crazy moment. Crazy moment.”
Sunday night, the team celebrated their historic season with loved ones. They know how meaningful it is to have a program like Howard’s in the big dance.
“[It's] a legacy that’s been a long-standing legacy of excellence and Black excellence, not only in the DMV, but across the country,” head coach Kenny Blakeney said.
And it was an extra special day for Marcus Dockery, another guard and hometown player.
“Best birthday present ever,” he said.
Dockery hopes young kids who grew up like him will be inspired.
“Me being from D.C. and growing up seeing Howard basketball and watching the program, being able to really be a part of the change, it really means a lot to me,” he said.
Now though, it’s all eyes on their game against the Kansas University Jayhawks.
“We gotta get back and watch a lot of film. Kansas is a national, traditional, historic program,” Blakeney said.
Tip off is set for Thursday at 2 p.m.