Howard, Hampton Square Off in Big Apple Classic
NEW YORK, N.Y. - There will be a lot will be riding on the line when Howard University and Hampton University square off in the Fourth Annual Big Apple Classic on Saturday in Madison Square Garden at 7:05 pm. The game will be preceded by a match-up between CIAA rivals Virginia Union University and Virginia State University at 4 pm.
The Pirates (2-6) have won the past two games after the Bison (0-8) won the first game of the Classic in 2006. It is also the conference opener for both schools and it offers a lot more for both prestigious institutions.
"The Garden is a great venue to play basketball," said Howard head coach Gil Jackson. "It gives Howard University an opportunity to play in one of the greatest arenas in the world. We have three players on our team who played their high school ball in the area and it is one of our strong recruiting areas. More importantly, it is a chance for us to showcase our conference."
For Hampton first year head coach Ed Joyner, it is also an opportunity to get exposure for his program.
"Our guys are really excited about playing in this game," said Joyner. "We have several players from the New York-New Jersey area and it is a special treat for them to come home to play before family and friends. When you are young as a player, this is the kind of opportunity that you dream about. It is a big-time game and it has the added dimension of being a MEAC game."
Both teams enter the game coming off a grueling early schedule. Howard has played eight game in 18 days, starting on November 13 in Indianapolis, IN with stops in Buffalo, NY, Orlando and Daytona Beach, FL before finally dropping a 59-53 decision to American University on Tuesday on the road.
The Pirates have had an equally challenging schedule with eight games in 18 days, starting at LaSalle in Philadelphia, PA on November 14 and concluding just three days ago with a 74-55 road loss at South Florida that snapped a two-game win streak.
The Bison have three players who hail from the Tri-state area: junior forward Adam Walker (Northfield HS/New York, NY) and freshmen guards Tyreak Johnson (St. Raymond's HS/Bronx, NY) and Anton Dickerson (Boys and Girls HS/Brooklyn, NY).
The Pirates have two players, Mike Tuitt (Monroe College/Bronx) and Charles Funches (Monroe College/Bayonne, NJ), who are from the metropolitan area.
The match-up between VUU and VSU should bring lots of excitement off the court, featuring the HBCU College Fair and the Drumline competition. But there is something that is much bigger than the game or the entertainment surrounding it. For the second year, the BAC will address another critical issue for African Americans-cancer awareness. To that end, the Big Apple Classic has partnered with the American Cancer Society.
"We're interested in more than just seeing which team is going to win the fight on the court," said Kenneth Johnson, President of Johnson, Inc., the Richmond, VA-based marketing firm that produces the BAC. "We feel compelled to do our part to help win the fight against cancer in our community."
Johnson adds that ticketholders are also part of the effort. "They are more than just spectators of premier HBCU college basketball; they are also contributors in helping fight cancer."