After Season-Opening Win, Howard Beaming With Confidence
WASHINGTON – Before Howard’s season-opening victory over Oregon State, the buzz going around campus was the possibility of an appearance from Beaver head coach Craig Robinson’s brother-in-law, President-Elect Barack Obama and soon-to-be First Lady Michelle Obama, Robinson’s sister.
But with neither the future Commander-In-Chief nor First Lady taking in an eventful night at 2,700-seat Burr Gymnasium, perhaps the new excitement is about just how good of a team Jackson’s squad can be this year.
The Bison boast a few senior veterans in forward Randy Hampton, guard Curtis White and guard Eugene Myatt. The trio, along with a mixture of young, upcoming talent, gives Howard the depth they lacked last season when the injury bug bit them as conference play began. It proved to be the difference in their 47-45 victory over the visiting Beavers, with Myatt and White providing the spark, chipping in 13 points a piece.
Undoubtedly, the victory gives Howard an immediate confidence booster, as they became the first MEAC school to knock off a Pac-10 member in quite some time.
Jackson has taken part in memorable victories over his illustrious coaching career, but giving the magnitude of this contest, he says the win ranks at the top of his list.
“(Howard) has had some big wins in their history,” said Jackson after the win. “In my tenure here, it’s huge, especially with the pressure of the first game and with a Pac-10 team coming in.”
“The (MEAC) has gotten big wins in the past and we contributed to that tonight,” he said.
Even with Howard holding onto a comfortable lead late in the second half, Jackson acknowledged his team being in such situations before, yet failing to find a way to close out wins. Friday night, the mission was accomplished.
“I knew we were practicing well and we worked hard to prepare for this game,” said Jackson. “They come from a power conference and for us to finish off a win like this was big.”
Special thanks, according to Jackson, goes to the fans, who were just as excited about the contest as they were in hopes of catching a glimpse of Mr. and Mrs. Obama. After Oregon State’s Daniel Deane missed a game-tying layup at the buzzer, a few Howardites swarmed the court in celebrating the program’s biggest win in recent memory.
“I’ve never seen that,” said Jackson. “It just shows that excitement is building here. We have a great atmosphere and a great stage for basketball. (Fans) were cheering and helping us out.”
Meanwhile, it was a bittersweet debut for Robinson. He spent some of the last 20 months on the campaign trail with his brother-in-law, during which he was hired to help rebuild a program that went winless in Pac-10 conference play – including a now 22-game skid dating back to last season – and faced issues with certain players trying to adapt both team chemistry and discipline.
Still, Robinson says he was humbled by the atmosphere and the attention both he and the game received.
“It’s very exciting and an honor to take part in something like this,” he said. “A great atmosphere, great students and a great band, but what I was most impressed with was that the pressure didn’t bother the team. They made a great effort and handled it well.”
As for Howard, health and stamina will continue to remain a factor for this team as they head into an early tough stretch that includes road contests at Navy, then to St. John’s in the first of two trips to the Big Apple this season.
The Bison will see these same Oregon State Beavers again, this time out in Corvallis for a rematch on December 20th.