By Mark F. Gray, Staff Writer, [email protected]
In an attempt to keep the momentum of a basketball program that appears to be a contender in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Howard University has turned to a blue blood with ties to this area as its new head coach.
Former Duke University player and DeMatha phenom Kenny Blakeney officially signed his contract and took the reigns of the program Monday, May 6. If coaching and championship pedigree mean anything on the bench, the Bison will be an instant contender and should be more than just a formidable foe for years to come.
“Kenny comes from a rich basketball pedigree having played for and coached under many of the best coaches in the history of the sport of basketball,” said Howard athletic director Kery Davis in a public statement. “Kenny’s unique talents on and off the floor, his association with winning programs and his innovative mind for business make him the right person to lead our program now and into the future.”
Blakeney groomed his on court talent, while playing for two hall of fame coaches during his career. The D.C. native played for the legendary DeMatha High School head coach Morgan Wooten, the winningest high school coach in history. While a student athlete at the Hyattsville-based program, he joined the distinguished list of high school royalty of McDonald’s All-Americans that went on to play major college basketball around the country.
He then took his talents to Duke University and played for coach Mike Kryzyzewski during what may have been the greatest era in school history and for one of the best teams ever. Blakeney was on a team that won 99 games and two National Championships during between 1991-1994.
“I see no reason why we shouldn’t be participating in the NCAA Tournament every year. That’s one of the ambitions of the program,” said Howard President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick at Monday’s press conference.
“Our expectation is every March we’re going to turn on the television and watch Mr. Blakeney on the sidelines with the rest of the team representing the university well.”
Howard has not made the NCAA Tournament since the 1991-92 season, which was Blakeney’s first year at Duke. However, Blakeney appears confident that he can get the type of recruits from the fertile basketball talent base of the D.M.V. despite the strict academic requirements of the institution. However, after working previously at Delaware, under DeMatha alumni and current Harvard coach Tommy Amaker.
“My first call when we were looking for a coach was to Tommy Amaker,” said Davis. “And [he] said, ‘I only have one name for you: Kenny Blakeney.”
President Frederick’s bold proclamations aside, Howard does have a chance to be a strong contender in the MEAC if Blakeney’s acumen as a marketing executive for the Under Armour executive can pay off as he tries to convince several players who are wavering on whether to transfer or make themselves available for professional basketball.
Blakeney must convince all-MEAC guard Charles Williams to return for a senior year. While conventional wisdom suggests he needs one more season as a college player, a six figure salary will be hard for him to turn down. The Bison are expected to lose MEAC Player of the Year R.J. Cole to the University of Connecticut and swingman Chad Lott to the University of South Florida.
Barring any additional defections, Howard’s roster is deep enough to be a MEAC contender, and if he can develop a guard to run their offense the Bison may be able to get back to the conference semifinals as they did last March.