HBCU capsule: The Mecca



Mecca is a unique place. From the laughs and the vibes in the yard to swag surfing at the games at Burr High School, qualifying for Howard University is one of the best decisions I've ever made.

When I walked onto campus during a recruiting visit, I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere and the different people I met. Howard is a place where I didn't have to worry about adapting and on the pitch I never had to worry about changing or changing my game. That has been critical to my growth over the past four years.

Over the years my coaches and teammates have continually encouraged and reminded me that the sky is the limit. This constant desire to develop a program and players isn't just showing on the side of women in the Bison Athletic program, however. The men's program has been pushing for an elite program to be built for more than 20 years.

As early as 1991, the Howard men's basketball head coach, Butch Beard, put together a team of specialists and used a substitution pattern that included an initial rotation of five and five men from the bench. It worked: 12 different players had an average of between five and 12 points. Everyone ate.

Beard, an Army veteran adamant about the benefits of physical conditioning, used a two-move strategy that wore down opponents with relentless pressures in court. During the championship game of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament, the bison cleared a 17 point deficit in the second half to come from behind and defeat Florida A&M. We then rose to the NCAA tournament for the second time in school history and for the first time in a decade.

We didn't stop there either. Howard won seven out of eight on the course, with the main catalyst being senior point guard Milan Brown, who was instrumental in five wins with last-second clutch free-throw winners. Brown was named All-Conference while Howard Holley, Senior Guard on the reserve broadcast, was named Most Valuable Player of the Tournament.

Howard's athletic skills inspire me to reach my full potential in college and it was an honor to qualify for Howard. Being in a space where I can learn and grow made me the player and the young woman I am today. Thanks to Mecca for helping.

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Jayla Thornton is a senior at Howard University studying sports management and guard on the women's basketball team. Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, her favorite team is the Brooklyn Nets. You can follow her on Instagram @_jayboogiee

In honor of Black History Month, SLAM partnered with 19Nine to bring out four retro shorts from monumental seasons when the Eagles, Bison, Pirates and Maroon Tigers put their schools on the map.

They are now available at SLAMgoods.



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