The CIAA announced its plans for a 16-game conference, scheduled to begin in early January. (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer

The CIAA announced its plans for a 16-game conference only scheduled to begin in early January and there are partially confirmed reports that only two rounds of the tournament will be played in Baltimore if there is one.  Meanwhile, the highest rated high school prospect in modern college basketball history to sign as an incoming freshman with an HBCU will be sidelined indefinitely.

CIAA announces basketball plans

CIAA officials announced their plans to try and complete their regular season schedule. Men’s and women’s basketball had previously been given the flexibility to play as many as six non-conference opponents. However, several regional Division II conferences such as the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference has cancelled all winter sports which impacted Bowie State who has been designated as the CIAA conference host for the three years of the tournament in Charm City.  

The Bulldogs normally face Indiana (PA) in what has become one the annual games that determine NCAA Tournament regional rankings that determine whether teams can host playoff games and who will travel to open the national Division II tournament.  The CIAA vs PSAC games will not be played this year.

However, sources close to the conference say there is a strong possibility the CIAA is considering the cancellation of it’s 2020 schedule also meaning there would be no tournament in Baltimore.  Several officials throughout the conference cite the health, safety and financial challenges that may offset the benefit of playing. 

A veteran athletic administrator with ties to officials  throughout the conference privately told the {AFRO} that if CIAA games are played on campus this year they would probably be played without any fans in attendance. That wouldn’t allow the home teams to cover the cost of hosting that includes compensation for the officiating crew, scorekeepers, etc., which is mandatory for the games to retain their competitive integrity.  Most referees have not been assigned to any games to this point and Bowie State cancelled last weekend’s game against Morgan State.

The CIAA Tournament, which Baltimore is scheduled to host exclusively starting in 2021, will only host the semifinals and finals next year as the preliminary rounds will be played on campus sites around the conference.   

HU Shuts Down Maker

Howard University basketball coach Kenny Blakeney must have gotten the short piece of the wishbone from his turkey on Thanksgiving.  The second year Bison coach, who was supposed to lead his team to the Virgin Islands for a holiday tournament, had to settle for playing games in the Paradise Jam at the Walter E. Washington Event Center once the games were moved to D.C. for pandemic safety reasons.

There were times when star prospect Makur Maker flashed the goods proving he could be the transcendent HBCU player that opens doors for other prospects of his caliber.  However, by the end of the three-day holiday weekend schedule, Howard had lost all three games and Maker indefinitely.

Maker, the no. 15 recruits in the nation aggravated a groin injury that was hurt during preseason workouts.  Blakeney told the {Washington Post} they were benching Maker “indefinitely” after watching him play through the injury that was plaguing him. In Howard’s first two games Maker averaged 11.5 points, six rebounds and two assists in only 19 minutes.

Howard lost to Belmont 85-71 of the Ohio Valley Conference in the season-opener for both teams of the Paradise Jam, then fell to Division II Queens University before losing to George Mason 84-70 on Saturday to cap the winless weekend.

Once again Blakeney is having to manage through a series of injuries that have put Howard behind the eight ball once again.  Howard is also playing without the returning MEAC freshman of the year Wayne Bristol Jr., who is nursing a labrum injury and COVID-19 protocols. Purdue transfer Nojel Eastern is still waiting for an NCAA transfer waiver before he is eligible to compete.