NCCU Scholars Advance to 32nd Annual Honda Campus All-Star Challenge Sweet Sixteen

Posted March 18, 2021, 12:04PM
From left to right:  Ifeanyichukwu Akunna Ezenwenyi, Isabel Gutierrez, Cedric Burden II and Jazmyne A. Abney

The North Carolina Central University (NCCU) Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC) team has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen playoffs of the 32nd annual Honda Campus All-Star Challenge. The tournament will take place virtually March 20-21. NCCU will compete on March 21.

Founded in 1989, the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge is the oldest academic competition between students at America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Honda has sponsored the program since its inception. The challenge is open to teams from four-year, degree-granting HBCUs in the continental United States.

NCCU participated in the March 6 national qualifying tournament, where the team won its fifth regional tournament since 2014, defeating Lincoln University in the final match, 360 to 215. NCCU finished the tournament undefeated, also beating Savannah State University and Xavier University of Louisiana in round-robin competition, and Allen University in the semifinals.

More than 125,000 students have participated in the competition in 31 years of competition. NCCU’s team has qualified for 21 previous Sweet Sixteen contests.

The national championship tournament, the Elite Eight, will take place on April 17-21. 

Representing NCCU as first-time varsity players are team captain Isabel Gutierrez, a senior environmental and geospatial sciences major from Mebane, N.C.; Jazmyne A. Abney, a junior political science and mass communication major from Charlotte, N.C.; Cedric Burden II, a junior biology major from Fulton, Md.; and Ifeanyichukwu Akunna Ezenwenyi, a junior pharmaceutical sciences major from Ezinifite, Anambra State, Nigeria.

The varsity team members hone their skills through practice challenges mounted by other team members, including Jo’Onna Banks, a junior computer science major from Huntersville, N.C.; India Bowden, a sophomore history major from Greensboro, N.C.; Elena Kendrick, a freshman history major from Knoxville, Tenn.; Kennedy Lofton, a junior pharmaceutical sciences major from Winston-Salem, N.C.; Jada Smith, a sophomore public health education major from Lumberton, N.C.; and Jaziah Terrelonge, a freshman business major from Richmond, Va.  

Janice Dargan, Ph.D., NCCU humanities and anthropology professor, serves as the faculty advisor. The team is coached by Christopher Graves and Clayton Mack Jr. Mack also serves as NCCU’s HCASC campus coordinator.

Graves’ tenure has included several team highlights, including seven finishes among the final eight teams, including two national championship appearances (2006, 2009). The coaches are assisted by several dedicated faculty, staff and alumni volunteers throughout the school year.

For more information on the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge or to view the games live, please visit https://www.hcasc.com. Follow NCCU's team on Twitter at @NccuHCASC.

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