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HBCU Basketball

HBCU ballers to keep an eye on this season

These men and women could lead their teams to postseason glory

Winter is coming, which means college basketball is starting to heat up. Fans will undoubtedly be watching performances from potential standouts such as Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, Michigan State’s Miles Bridges and Devonte’ Graham from the University of Kansas. But don’t sleep on the hoops stars from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) who are also looking to lead their respective teams to conference championships and a spot in the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments.

Top returning men’s players

Tiwian Kendley, 6-5, 190 pounds, senior guard, Morgan State

Morgan State guard Tiwian Kendley (5) shoots past Rutgers forward Candido Sa, (21), of Portugal, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Piscataway, N.J.

AP Photo/Mel Evans

Kendley averaged 21.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in the 2016-17 season. The Harlem, New York, native made the All-MEAC first team and was selected as the MEAC player of the week twice last season. Kendley could be the prolific scorer that the Bears need to get over the hump and grab the MEAC title.

Brandon Tabb, 6-4, 180 pounds, senior guard, Bethune-Cookman

Brandon Tabb during an NCAA basketball game between Johnson University and Bethune Cookman at Moore Gym in Daytona Beach, Fl, Nov. 10, 2017.

Romeo Guzman

Tabb averaged 17.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. He also led the Wildcats in both total points and total rebounds. The guard from Hampton, Virginia, earned MEAC player of the week last season and was a second-team All-MEAC selection and a preseason first-team member this year. As a senior, he will be looking to lead Bethune-Cookman to a successful season in his final campaign this year.

Zaynah Robinson, 5-11, 180 pounds, senior guard, Norfolk State

Norfolk State’s Zaynah Robinson (2) dribbles around Cincinnati’s Gary Clark (11) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Cincinnati.

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Robinson was a second-team All-MEAC selection in 2016-17. He averaged 13.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game as a junior. Robinson was also placed on the MEAC All-Tournament team after helping engineer the Spartans’ surprise appearance in the MEAC championship against North Carolina Central. Robinson will be looking to take the Spartans at least one step further as a senior.

Demontrae Jefferson, 5-7, 150 pounds, sophomore guard, Texas Southern

Texas Southern Tigers guard Demontrae Jefferson (3) during the first half against the Clemson Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum Arena on Nov 24, 2017 in Clemson, SC.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Jefferson was selected as the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) freshman of the year in 2016-17. In his first two games of this season, Jefferson is averaging 21.0 points and 3.5 assists per game. The diminutive guard uses stellar handles and supreme quickness to make defenders look silly. He will be looking to build on his freshman year and bring the Tigers back-to-back SWAC titles.

Kevin Scott, 6-4, 205 pounds, senior guard, Texas Southern

Texas Southern Tigers guard Kevin Scott (4) drives to the basket against North Carolina Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson (44) during the first half in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Mar 17, 2017 in Greenville, SC, USA.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Scott was a second-team All-SWAC selection last season as a junior. Now early in his senior campaign, Scott is averaging 15.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He played an integral part in the Tigers’ championship run last season and will look to repeat that success this season for another chance to play in the NCAA tournament.

Reginal Johnson, 6-5, 250 pounds, senior forward, Alcorn State

Alcorn State forward Reginal Johnson (24) drives to the basket against LSU guard Tremont Waters (3) at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Nov 10, 2017; Baton Rouge, LA.

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson was an All-SWAC second-team selection last year and a two-time SWAC player of the week last season. After averaging 16 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in conference play, the forward from Monroe, Louisiana, is looking to become a dominant force in SWAC competition.

Top returning women’s players

Fans of women’s college basketball will undoubtedly be focusing on performances from potential standouts such as A’ja Wilson from South Carolina, Kelsey Mitchell from Ohio State and Gabby Williams from Connecticut this season. However, don’t sleep on these top players.

Genesis Lucas, 5-7, redshirt senior guard, Coppin State

Coppin State’s Genesis Lucas (2) drives past North Carolina A&T’s Courtney Powell during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference women’s tournament in Norfolk, Va., Saturday, March 12, 2016. ()

AP Photo/Chet Strange

Lucas was selected to the All-MEAC first team last season. The Brandywine, Maryland, native averaged 13.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in the 2016-17 season. Lucas aspires to lead the Eagles to a MEAC crown this season.

Kayla Roberts, 6-1, senior guard/forward, Norfolk State

Kayla Roberts during a 2017 MEAC Basketball Tournament women’s game between Norfolk State and Delaware State played at the Norfolk Scope in Norfolk, Virginia. March 6, 2017.

Mark W. Sutton

Roberts averaged 12.1 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.97 blocks per game as a junior. The Miami native was a first-team All-MEAC selection in 2016-17 and led the MEAC in defensive rebounds with 6.5 per game. In her senior campaign, she will be looking to lead the Spartans to a MEAC title.

NaJai Pollard, 5-11, junior forward, Delaware State

NaJai Pollard

Rodney Adams

Pollard was an All-MEAC first-team selection for the 2016-17 season. Pollard was the MEAC’s scoring leader with 18.6 points per game and the MEAC rebounding leader with 9.8 rebounds per contest while also leading the MEAC in field goal percentage (.537). Pollard was the preseason selection for the 2017-18 MEAC player of the year.

Shakyla Hill, 5-7, junior guard, Grambling State

Grambling State Lady Tigers guard Shakyla Hill (5) drives to the basket during the first half against the Baylor Bears at the Ferrell Center on Dec. 6, 2015 in Waco, TX.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The native of Little Rock, Arkansas, earned a first-team All-SWAC selection after her stellar performance in the 2016-17 season. Hill is averaging 12.4 points and 5.8 assists per game on the early season.

Joyce Kennerson, 5-4, junior guard, Texas Southern

Texas Southern guard Joyce Kennerson, left, drives past Grambling guards Chantiara Lewis (24) and Takerra Parsons during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Houston.

AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

Kennerson averaged 18.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.06 assists per game in 2016-17. Kennerson earned a spot as a first-team All-SWAC performer in her sophomore campaign.

Briana Green, 5-11, senior forward, Southern

Southern’s Briana Green (1) shoots for two points with Alabama State’s Kayla Stephens (22) at her back during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Houston.

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

Green is a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native and was an All-SWAC first-team selection in 2016-17. Green was also named to the preseason All-SWAC first team before the start of this season. Green and the Jaguars will be looking to improve on their semifinal finish last season and grab the coveted SWAC title.

Donovan Dooley is a former Rhoden Fellow and a multimedia journalism major from Tuscaloosa, AL. He attends North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University.