by Habeeba Husain / @HabeebaHusain
The buzzer rings, are you listening? Down the lane, the player’s driving. It’s a beautiful sight, and all are happy tonight at the Big Apple Classic “Educational Wonderland.”
Next weekend, the Big Apple Classic returns to the setting for which it’s named, the Big Apple. HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Virginia State, Virginia Union, Howard and Delaware will step on to the Barclays floor and play some ball.
“To say we haven’t thought about that game would be a lie because I know my players thought about it,” said Kevin Nickelberry, head basketball coach at Howard. “Dressing in the same locker room as the Nets and being in that same building, it’s exciting for a young man. So we’re looking forward to it.”
Head coach of the Virginia State University Trojans, Lonnie Blow, said his players are hyped to go to the Big Apple too.
“It’s a special opportunity for those young men,” said Blow. “A lot of them never traveled to New York City before.”
As hyped as the college ballers are to travel, they won’t simply be tourists during the December 14-15 weekend. Instead, they’ll be a part of the attraction.
Coach Blow’s Trojans will open up the double-header on Sunday at the Barclays Center as they take on the Virginia Union University Panthers. Coach Nickelberry’s Howard University Bison will face the Delaware State University Hornets in the second matchup.
But the weekend doesn’t start and end with basketball.
“This year we are going to have a whole day dedicated toward the educational initiative,” (hence the theme of “Educational Wonderland”) said Jonsette Calloway of Johnson, Inc., a marketing firm based in Virginia that produces the Classic.
The weekend kicks off on Saturday with a Leadership Summit, featuring seminars focused on STEM-ED (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Entrepreneurship, Design) and CTE (Career and Technical Education) led by professionals in their respective industries. Then a college fair begins Sunday’s events.
“In past years, we’ve always had the college fair, but this is definitely the first year we’re heavy-going hard for education,” Calloway said.
The Leadership Summit, catered for high school juniors and seniors will take place at The New York Times Building. Professionals from Merrill Lynch, New York Institute of Technology, Major League Baseball, and more will host sessions for the 200 registered students throughout the day.
More than likely, Calloway said the students at the Summit will attend the following day’s events at Barclays too—the college fair, games, drum-line competition, step show performance, and halftime entertainment.
With all the activities surrounding the double-header, Coach Blow said the trip is a fun learning experience for his student-athletes, and Coach Nickelberry agrees.
“It’s not just about the game,” he said. “For me, it’s about the game, but I want [the players] to be able to enjoy everything about the game and everything around the game as well.”
Players will take in the sights and breathe in the air of the City’s culture and be a part of something bigger than themselves—repping the HBCU in a market where it’s not as prominent.
“That’s actually the main reason we decided to go to New York,” Calloway said. “We wanted to bring that experience to the Big Apple and expose all the students who are in New York to the HBCU experience and get excited about HBCUs.”
With about one week left on the calendar, the Big Apple Classic will be in the City for its seventh year, bringing with it all the excitement, history and opportunity in form of an “Educational Wonderland.”
Visit the Big Apple Classic website for more details.