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She Shoots, She Scores! Howard Women’s Basketball Celebrates 50 Years

To commemorate the historic milestone, a $250,000 fundraising campaign was launched in support of the program’s immediate needs.

by Howard University Department of Athletics
Howard's women basketball team

Howard University women’s basketball began its golden anniversary celebration by acknowledging across multiple social and digital platforms the milestones, highlights, and talented players responsible for the program’s five decades of success.

As of press time, the team’s official 50th anniversary ceremony transpired on Saturday, February 3, 2024, when Howard hosted Maryland Eastern Shore.

“Each time I look up into the rafters, I feel a sense of pride and admiration to those whose blood, sweat and tears made this program a national treasure,” said head women’s basketball coach Ty Grace. “I’m honored to be a part of such a storied program and to have contributed to the long-lasting legacy.”

Basketball coach Ty Grace
Howard's women's basketball coach Ty Grace

The path to mainstream success for women in basketball has not been exactly easygoing. Grace noted the fight for acceptance that the women’s game has undergone throughout the years. “To think, it was not too long ago that we had to fight to participate and find equality in the sport,” she said.

The team was passable at its start. As former coach Sanya Tyler described in an interview with HU Bison in 2022, “We had at least one great player and some good role players.” The team had enough to earn their first NCAA tournament berth in 1982, but Tyler knew they needed more.

Tyler subsequently began recruiting star players from high schools. To ensure academic stability, she furnished the team with a sports psychologist, a traveling math tutor, and laptops. The University also committed to full athletic scholarships for women’s basketball.

Since that original 1982 NCAA tournament appearance, Howard women’s basketball has won nine Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) season titles and 11 tournament titles. Seven players have been named Player of the Year, and nine named Rookie of the Year. Several have even played professionally in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

Three coaches have continued Tyler’s legacy: Cathy Parson, who won the MEAC tournament and earned an NCAA bid in her first season; Nikki Reid Geckeler, who coached the team to three MEAC tournament finals; and Grace, who in addition to reaching three consecutive MEAC tournament finals, also coached the team to victory in their First Four game at the 2022 NCAA tournament.

To commemorate this historic milestone, a $250,000 fundraising campaign was launched in support of the program’s immediate needs. Lead donors include Alisha Hill-Gigger, Aneta Robinson-Burton (BA ’90), Bruce H. Williams (BS ’74, Med ’96), Donna Wood (BA ’83), the Honorable Larry Banks (BA ’71), Leslie Norris McFarland (BS ’77), Robin Duncan-Chisolm (Cert. ’86), Howard Women’s Basketball Class of 2013, and Vannessa Graham-Jenkins (BS ’88, Med ’92).

This story appears in the Winter 2024 issue.
Article ID: 1866

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