The NBA All-Star Game is just around the corner, and all of the various side events are coming with it. While the likes of the Slam Dunk and 3-Point contests have been around forever, other events are much more recent additions. On that note, no addition is more recent than the NBA HBCU Classic, with this year’s game pitting the Southern and Grambling State basketball programs against each other.
The league first introduced this event last year as part of an ongoing commitment to advancing HBCUs. In the 2022 edition of the game, Morgan State defeated Howard 68-56. Both schools received $100,000 donations to their athletic departments, and the NBA supported HBCUs in many other ways, such as with college funds and fellowship programs.
This time, Southwestern Athletic Conference foes Southern and Grambling State basketball will face off in the NBA HBCU Classic. These teams are both in the top three of the conference and have been playing each other for decades. Now, they’ll get to face off in front of a national audience.
Without further ado, here’s the rundown on the 2023 NBA HBCU Classic.
Date, time, location and how to watch NBA HBCU Classic
The NBA HBCU Classic will take place on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 4 p.m. ET (2 p.m. local). The game will be played in Salt Lake City, Utah, along with the rest of All-Star Weekend. However, instead of the Jazz’ Vivint Arena, this game will instead take place in the University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center. The game will air live on TNT, ESPN2 and NBA TV.
Meet the teams in NBA HBCU Classic
Since these teams are smaller than the big boys in college basketball, many fans may not be familiar with them. So, here’s a brief rundown of each team to help you get up to speed before the game.
Southern basketball enters the NBA HBCU Classic with a 13-13 record, including a 9-4 mark in conference play, good for third in the SWAC. The Jaguars had a great January, going 8-1 in exclusively conference games.
However, February has been much rougher, as they are just 1-3 in the month so far. Most recently, the Jaguars fell at home to Texas Southern 79-68 on Monday, their first home loss of the season.
Two veteran guards lead Southern’s scoring attack. Graduate students Brion Whitley and Bryson Etienne are first and second in scoring, averaging 12 and 11 points respectively. The Jaguars’ head coach is Sean Woods, who played for Kentucky from 1989-92 and now has his number hanging in the rafters of Rupp Arena.
Both teams will have an honorary captain for this game- and the Jaguars’ is Southern alum Bob Love. Love was an All-American at Southern in the early 1960s and went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA from 1965-77. He played the majority of his career with the Chicago Bulls, earning three all-star selections while having his number retired.
“My pathway from Southern to the NBA has opened countless doors for me,” Love said. “I am proud to support the NBA in using the game of basketball to celebrate the rich history of HBCUs and drive opportunity for the next generation of leaders both on and off the court.”
Southern defeated Grambling State in the previous meeting this season, winning 81-73 at home on Jan. 14. This marked the Jaguars’ first win over the Tigers since January 2021.
Grambling State Basketball
Grambling State basketball enters the NBA HBCU Classic with a 17-8 record and are second in the SWAC with a 10-3 conference record.
However, the Tigers’ overall record is the best in the conference, ahead of first-place Alcorn State’s 14-11 mark. They have won all four of their games in February, most recently defeating Prairie View A&M 68-64 at home on Monday.
The Tigers have three different players averaging double-digit points. Graduate guard Cameron Christon leads the team with 13.3 points per game, while redshirt junior forward Carte’are Gordon and senior guard Shawndarius Coward follow close behind with 11.9 and 10.6 points per game, respectively.
Grambling State’s head coach is Donte’ Jackson, who is in his sixth season and guided the Tigers to their first conference title in almost 30 years back in 2018.
The Tigers’ honorary captain for this game is Willis Reed, who led the team to a NAIA title in the early 1960s. Reed then enjoyed a decade-long career with the New York Knicks, earning seven All-Star selections and leading the team to two NBA titles. Like his counterpart in Love, Reed has had his number retired by his NBA team.
“I credit my career in part to my time at Grambling State,” Reed said. “The HBCU Classic will provide what is to most a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play on the NBA stage and serve as a platform for those interested in the business side of the game to gain industry insight and make lasting connections.”
This game will be a showcase for HBCU athletics, and basketball fans won’t want to miss it.