Washington, DC (Posted November 2, 2022)
By Ron Harris – It seemed that head basketball coach, Kenny Blakeney came out of no where to get the job at Howard University. Several names, not Blakeney, were floating around as the school searched for a new head man. Going into his 4th year, Blakeney has the nation talking about his team and his program. He landed a 5-star player in, Makur Maker and the entire nation took notice. It was the first time a player of Maker’s talent decided to attend a Historically Black College. Unfortunately, Maker’s year turned out to be a COVID year and the team only played 5 games. Maker moved on to the pros after that one year.
Blakeney is more than an X and O coach. He feels that his players are at a prestigious school like Howard to learn more than a pick and roll. “The process at a university should be about education and teaching,” says Blakeney. “We have the opportunity to be at one of the greatest universities on the planet as educators, as teachers, as mentors. That’s what the university is for. To help our young men and women to evolve so they can go out in the real world and make changes.”
Are his players buying into his way of coaching and teaching? “We have been more intentional, with conscious, to find young men that would understand the value of it. Yes, everybody has bought in.”
DC native, Blakeney has been well coached as far back as his Boys Club days, all the way to Hall of Fame coaches Morgan Wootten in high school at DeMatha and Mike Krzyzewski in college at Duke. “I always, I guess, as a player wanted to be a leader. I wanted to be the best. With that mind set, the details as to how you see the game, I think are a lot different than somebody not looking at it through that lens. I have been lucky to been in the right rooms.” Blakeney has also been a winner, with a championship in high school and 2 championships in college as a player.
This season will be Blakeney’s 4th year as a head coach. He is a soft-spoken person in his day-to-day life, but when he coaches, he gets the attention of his players with strong facial expressions and an occasional stern tone of voice. His teams must play defense. He has depth on this year’s team, and it’s wondered how he will get all those good players on the floor in a 40-minute game. “Cream rises to the top. We have so much depth, I think we are going to get better because the guys will be pushing one another in practice, in the weight room and the training room to see who can get healthy faster. I want competition with everything we do. That will enhance the overall culture of our program.”
Howard has a big 3, led by the smallest player on the team, returning MEAC Rookie of the Year, Elijah Hawkins, the sophomore point guard from Washington, DC and DeMatha High School, Junior, Steve Settle III, from Maryland and DeMatha and Junior sharpshooter Jordan Wood from San Antonio, Texas.
How does coach Blakeney see those three….” Elijah makes our team go. We don’t have players that can get their own shots, not yet anyway. Elijah puts our players in position to do what we want done. Settle must be consistent and try to be one of the best basketball players in the country. I just want him to be the steady player he has been. Wood ran a marathon this summer and came back in the best shape he could be in. He didn’t do much basketball stuff. I think finishing that marathon gave him the confidence he has lacked in past years.”
The Bison open the season against highly ranked Kentucky on the road. Last year Howard had the ball to win against Austin Peay and to tie Notre Dame at home in Burr Gym on national TV. Playing top ranked schools can be a learning and teaching tool for basketball players. This is what Kenny Blakeney is all about.
Photo credit: Rodney Pierce
About Ron Harris
Ron Harris, retired college administrator, coach, broadcaster, Internet and TV sports producer and host. Former radio host of a live call-in show. Extremely close to the sports landscape in the Washington, DC metro area. Former radio sports reporter, covering MLB, college sports, major boxing events and much more.