Participation in the March 6 national qualifying tournament marked the eleventh time in 31 seasons that the NCCU All-Star Team reached the Elite Eight bracket. The Honda Campus All-Star Challenge is the oldest academic competition featuring students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Since the competition’s inception, NCCU teams have won more than $272,000 through the program to date.
This year’s championship games took place on April 20.
NCCU defeated Prairie View A&M University to participate in the quarterfinals. Joining NCCU in the quarterfinals were teams from Alabama A&M University, Bowie State University, Florida A&M University, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Morehouse College, North Carolina A&T State University and Oakwood University.
In the March tournament, the NCCU team won its fifth regional contest since 2014 by defeating Lincoln University 360 to 215 in the final match. NCCU finished the tournament undefeated with wins over Savannah State University and Xavier University of Louisiana in round-robin competition, as well as Allen University in the semifinals.
Representing NCCU as first-time varsity players were Isabel Gutierrez as team captain and a graduating 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, whose role combines that of junior varsity team mate and peer coaches. Other team members are 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 S. 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 a number of team highlights, notably seven finishes among the final-eight teams, including two national championship appearances (2006, 2009). The coaches are assisted by several additional faculty, staff and alumni volunteers throughout the school year.
For more information on the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge, visit https://www.hcasc.com.