The event goes down on April 3 during the weekend of the NCAA Tournament’s Men’s Final Four
Basketball’s first-ever HBCU All-Star Game is coming Sunday, April 3 during March Madness’ Final Four Weekend in New Orleans. And it’s found an official sponsor — Aflac is doubling down on its commitment to historically Black institutions by lending its name to the natural edition of this event.
“As an official sponsor of March Madness, we thought it would be no better time than now and no better opportunity than with the HBCU All-Star game to celebrate the other pieces of basketball experience which extends to HBCUs,” said Shannon Watkins, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer at Aflac, in an interview with Boardroom. “When you think about the HBCU experience, the collective power of HBCUs from a financial wealth generation and financial bind perspective is bar-none to any other conference we can sponsor as a whole.”
The game will take place in New Orleans at the UNO Lakefront Arena. The rosters for the all-star game were announced on Monday featuring 24 players from 23 different schools.
Aflac has previously made an impact in the HBCU space with arguably the most famous man in all of HBCU sports, Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders. The Jackson State head football coach joined Alabama’s Nick Saban as one of Aflac’s official spokesmen in August of last year. Sanders has been featured in multiple TV commercials aimed at uplifting and empowering HBCUs and their student-athletes.
“As an advertiser, brands typically show a pretty monolithic view of the sports landscape. In the context of football, what you see is primarily a predominantly White exploration of the football landscape and during this season we expanded into HBCUs,” said Watkins.
The All-Star Game has been in the works since 2019, but its debut was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally getting its time to shine in 2022, it follows the trend of other HBCU-centric sporting showcases that have generated momentum in the past few months alone:
- Michael B. Jordan put together the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic basketball showcase in December
- The NFL held the first-ever HBCU Combine earlier this year
- The HBCU Legacy Bowl took place in New Orleans on Feb. 19, an event established by the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
“Folks seeing the HBCU All-Star game and Aflac branding together, it’s a blessing,” said HBCU All-Stars LLC founder and CEO Travis L. Williams in an interview. “This means a lot to culture to be associated with Aflac. We get an opportunity to showcase the best Black college basketball players from our most prestigious HBCUs. It’s a celebration of our culture, history, our experiences and there’s no better way to do it than on Final Four weekend.”
With a mission to advocate, educate, expose, mentor, and invest in HBCU student-athletes and coaches across the country, the event aims to showcase the best in Black college basketball. The game is being launched by a company of the same name, HBCU All-Stars LLC, a Black-owned sports marketing and events company.
“Our goal is to provide opportunities for HBCU athletes. But more importantly to help individuals that don’t know about HBCUs to get an opportunity to see our HBCUs” said Williams.
Aflac HBCU All-Star Game Rosters
Team John McLendon (MEAC/SIAC)
- PG Kam Langley, North Carolina A&T
- PG Brandon Miller, Miles College
- SG Kyle Foster, Howard
- SG Trey DeLoach, Savannah State
- SG Myles Carter, Delaware State
- SG Randy Miller, North Carolina Central
- SF Tahj Green, Benedict College
- SF Noah Morgan, Morehouse
- PF Randall Brumant, Howard University
- F/C Deaquan Williams, South Carolina State
- F/C JaQuan Lawrence, LeMoyne-Owen
- F/C Najee Garvin, Hampton
Team Clarence Gaines (SWAC/CIAA)
- PG Jonas James III, Jackson State
- PG Shawn Williams, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
- SG Juwaun Daniels, Prairie View A&M
- SG Jalen Seegars, Fayetteville State
- SG/SF Javonte Cooke, Winston Salem State
- SF/PF Kassim Nicholson, Tennessee State
- SF Jordan Peebles, Virginia Union
- SF Prince Moss, Grambling State
- PF/C Lenell Henry, Alcorn State
- F/C Darian “DJ” Jones, Florida A&M
- F/C Navar Elmore, Livingstone College
- F/C Brison Gresham, Texas Southern