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Founder/CEO Travis Williams speaks on the importance of HBCU All-Star Game

Grand Canyon University in Glendale is hosting the third-annual HBCU All-Star Game on Sunday, April 7 at 1 p.m. local time. This game highlights the top 24 players from the four Historically Black Athletic Conferences.

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It will be played on the same weekend and in the same city as the Final Four for the third straight year.

The Game’s Significance

I had a chance to speak with Travis Williams, founder and CEO of the event. He emphasized how significant and monumental it is to have the game played in Phoenix this year.

“To bring the entire HBCU All-Star Game to Phoenix is special. The community has been amazing in Phoenix and we’re bringing something historic to the city,” Williams said. “There are a lot of HBCU grads and supporters in the area, Grand Canyon University has been an amazing partner for us.”

There are currently no HBCUs or predominantly Black institutions in the valley due to the state’s minimal black population.

This looks to be a great way to further expand the HBCU space into areas that need it.

“It shows that our HBCUs matter and it shows the entire HBCU All-Star Game experience as well as the magnitude of it,” Williams added. “We get a chance to celebrate black excellence at the highest level, it’s just an amazing opportunity for everyone.”


Williams’ background

Before finding and revolutionizing this event that will now occur each year during Final Four weekend, Williams was around the game of basketball for his entire life.

Following a four-year playing career at Georgia State University, Williams spent 19 years coaching. The Georgia native spent time as head coach of Fort Valley State and more recently, Tennessee State.

This collegiate experience helped fuel his spark to start the HBCU All-Star Game and helped him further understand how the college basketball space works.

“Our HBCUs don’t get the notoriety, the shine, and the national platform that they should,” Williams said. “I understand the fight that my coaches and colleagues go through, I’ve been there.”

Nov 22, 2013; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles head coach Travis Williams during the first half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Williams has helped boost dozens of players to continue playing at higher levels following college. Over 45 of his former players have played in the NBA, G-league, overseas, or went semi-pro.

The HBCU world is only growing and Williams knows the sky is the limit regarding historically black colleges. Not only in terms of basketball but expanding the schools entirely in all areas is a focus.

“We are some of the best and brightest universities across the country on all levels,” Williams emphasized.


All-Star Talent

The 24 HBCU All-Stars were divided into two teams for Sunday’s game.

Former NBA Champion and Hall of Famer Ben Wallace will represent one team. Wallace, an HBCU alum, is recognized in the HBCU space for his dominant playing time at Virginia Union University from 1994-96.

Lincoln University’s Jason Armstrong and Texas Southern’s Johnny Jones were selected as coaches for Team Wallace.

Fellow NBA Champion Rick Mahorn will represent the opposing team. Mahorn spent four historic years at Hampton University before having one of the lengthiest NBA careers ever.

“They (Ben Wallace and Rick Mahorn) are HBCU legends and now a part of the HBCU All-Star moment,” Williams said. “Those are my guys and to have them be a part of the HBCU All-Star experience is truly a blessing.”

North Carolina Central’s Levelle Moton and Clark Atlanta’s Alfred Jordan will be coaching Team Mahorn.

HBCU stars from all across the country are in Phoenix to showcase their talents.

NC Central’s Fred Cleveland Jr. was named the Sam Jones NCAA Division I National Player of the Year. Clark Atlanta’s Chris Martin was named the Earl Monroe NCAA Division II National Player of the Year.

They will now be competing on the big stage in the Valley with all eyes watching this Sunday.

GCU is set to host another huge event, continuing an eventful week at Global Credit Union Arena. CBS Television Network and Paramount Plus are streaming this year’s HBCU All-Star Game. Tickets remain available for purchase HERE.

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Saleh Awwad is a writer/reporter covering the Arizona State Sun Devils, Phoenix High School Sports, and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @SalehAwwad_

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