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HBCU Basketball

Players and coaches agree: Grambling’s Shakyla Hill and Howard’s RJ Cole are top HBCU players

We’ve also got the line on the best shooters and passers, toughest players and top coaches

Before players escape for spring break and coaches hit the recruiting trail, we asked them who was “the best” in basketball this season at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The Undefeated surveyed and interviewed 47 players and coaches from 24 HBCUs. Schools from NCAA Division I and Division II and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics responded to questions.

In a season full of quadruple-doubles, undefeated records in conference play and players rewriting the history books with their scoring prowess, the 2018-19 HBCU basketball season has been one for the ages. “It’s been a crazy season,” said Tennessee State head coach Brian “Penny” Collins. “Just trying to keep up with the milestones and great work the kids do at our institutions has been exhausting and phenomenal. We’ve been putting in work.”

Is it fair to compare the game of Grambling’s Shakyla Hill with that of any Division I player? Is Norfolk State’s Derrik Jamerson the best shooter in the country? Is Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Martaveous McKnight the most clutch player in all of college basketball? The players and coaches from HBCUs seem to think so.


Who is the HBCU women’s player of the year?

Grambling State guard Shakyla Hill.

Grambling State University

  1. Shakyla Hill, Grambling State — 47%
  2. Ay’Anna Bey, Benedict — 23%

Tied at No. 3. Shareka McNeill, Virginia Union — 13%

Tied at No. 3. NaJai Pollard, Delaware State — 13%


Who is the HBCU men’s player of the year?

Howard guard RJ Cole.

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

T-1. RJ Cole, Howard — 18%

T-1. Jeremy Combs, Texas Southern — 18%

T-3. Jermaine Marrow, Hampton — 15%

T-3. Amir Hinton, Shaw — 15%

T-5. Kendarius Ash, Lane — 9%

T-5. Martaveous McKnight, Arkansas-Pine Bluff — 9%

Best backcourt player, women’s basketball

Virginia Union guard Shareka McNeill.

Isaiah George

  1. Shakyla Hill, Grambling State — 36%
  2. Shareka McNeill, Virginia Union — 29%

Best backcourt player, men’s basketball

Shaw University guard Amir Hinton.

T-1. Amir Hinton, Shaw — 20%

T-1. Martaveous McKnight, Arkansas-Pine Bluff — 20%

3. Gary Blackston, Prairie View — 15%

Best frontcourt player, women’s basketball

Delaware State forward NaJai Pollard.

  1. NaJai Pollard, Delaware State — 31%
  2. Marneisha Hamer, Jackson State — 15%
  3. Niya Mitchell, Texas Southern — 15%
  4. Ay’Anna Bey, Benedict — 15%

Best frontcourt player, men’s basketball

Texas Southern forward Jeremy Combs (left) defends Iowa State guard Marial Shayok (right).

  1. Jeremy Combs, Texas Southern — 29%
  2. Raasean Davis, North Carolina Central — 14%
  3. Toriano Stokes, LeMoyne-Owen — 11%

T-4. Cletrell Pope, Bethune-Cookman — 7%

T-4. Ibrahim Sylla, North Carolina A&T — 7%

Who is the most athletic women’s player?

Hampton guard Ashley Bates.

  1. Niya Mitchell, Texas Southern — 39%
  2. Ashley Bates, Hampton — 23%

Who is the most athletic men’s player?

Jackson State forward Jayveous McKinnie.

  1. Jayveous McKinnis, Jackson State — 15%
  2. Emmanuel Egbuta, Tennessee State — 11%

T-3. Axel Mpoyo, Grambling State — 7%

T-3. Qua Copeland, North Carolina A&T — 7%

Who is the best shooter, women’s basketball?

Howard guard Jayla Thornton.

  1. Jayla Thornton, Howard — 31%

T-2. Ayana Emmanuel, Alabama State — 15%

T-2. Richelle Velez, Texas Southern — 15%

Who is the best shooter, men’s basketball?

Norfolk State guard Derrik Jamerson.

T-1. Derrik Jamerson, Norfolk State — 19%

T-1. Martaveous McKnight, Arkansas-Pine Bluff — 19%

T-3. Justin Ravenel, Florida A&M — 12%

T-3. Jaylon McMillan, Fort Valley State — 12%

Who is the best passer, women’s basketball?

Maryland-Eastern Shore guard Ciani Byrom.

  1. Shakyla Hill, Grambling — 40%
  2. Ciani Byrom, Maryland-Eastern Shore — 30%

Who is the best passer, men’s basketball?

Kameron Langley (left) of the North Carolina A&T Aggies looks to shoot against Justin Robinson (right) of the Virginia Tech Hokies.

  1. Kameron Langley, North Carolina A&T — 31%

T-2. RJ Cole, Howard — 10%

T-2. Ivy Smith, Grambling State — 10%

T-2. Tom Johnson, Central State — 10%

T-2. Michael Olmert, Morehouse — 10%

Who is the toughest player, women’s basketball?

Central State forward Chervelle Cox.

T-1. Chervelle Cox, Central State — 33%

T-1. Marneisha Hamer, Jackson State — 33%

Who is the toughest player, men’s basketball?

Lane foward Kendarius Ash.

  1. Kendarius Ash, Lane — 27%

T-2. Jahmere Howze, Virginia State — 12%

T-2. Gary Blackston, Prairie View — 12%

Who is the best leader, women’s basketball?

Bethune-Cookman guard Angel Golden (right).

  1. Shakyla Hill, Grambling State — 46%
  2. Angel Golden, Bethune-Cookman — 27%

Who is the best leader, men’s basketball?

Prairie View guard Gary Blackston.

  1. Gary Blackston, Prairie View — 18%

T-2. Jermaine Marrow, Hampton — 14%

T-2. Devonte Fuller, Miles — 14%

Who would you call Miss Clutch?

Grambling State guard Shakyla Hill.

  1. Shakyla Hill, Grambling State — 36%

T-2. NaJai Pollard, Delaware State — 18%

T-2. C’Coriea Foy, North Carolina A&T — 18%

Who would you call Mr. Clutch?

Hampton guard Jermaine Marrow.

  1. Martaveous McKnight, Arkansas-Pine Bluff — 24%
  2. Jermaine Marrow, Hampton — 14%

T-3. RJ Cole, Howard — 10%

T-3. Amir Hinton, Shaw — 10%


Who is the HBCU women’s coach of the year?

James Rice, Benedict College women’s coach.

  1. James Rice, Benedict — 26%
  2. AnnMarie Gilbert, Virginia Union — 22%

T-3. Tarrell Robinson, North Carolina A&T — 13%

T-3. Freddie Murray, Grambling State — 13%

Who is the HBCU men’s coach of the year?

Byron Smith. Prairie View A&M men’s basketball coach

  1. Byron Smith, Prairie View A&M — 31%
  2. Fred Watson, Miles — 22%
    T-3. Lonnie Blow, Virginia State — 13%
    T-3. Johnny Jones, Texas Southern — 13%

Eddie Maisonet is an associate editor for ESPN. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 snapbacks and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”