The Greatest Incubator of Black Talent in Sports

The Howard University men’s basketball team currently has the largest managerial staff in the nation, and currently has over 70 students on staff. When you look at a college basketball team and think of a student manager, the first thing that probably pops up in your mind is wiping the court or handing out water to players. However, the managerial staff of the men’s basketball team plays a much more vital role in the team’s success. Kenneth Blakeney, coach of the University’s men’s basketball team, even went as far as to describe the staff as “the greatest incubator of Black talent in sports.”

Na’im Briggs, head manager of statistics for the Howard University men’s basketball team, spoke on what the staff really does for the team and how important it is. He also explained how this opportunity gave him the chance to carve out a career in sports.

How did you get involved with the basketball team when you first got to Howard, and how did you get integrated with the team?

“I’ll even start before then. In high school, I was both a player and a manager. After high school, I knew my playing career was over. I wasn’t really that good, but I still wanted to be involved with the program. I knew being a manager was the right way to go, but I didn’t know how to do it. However, I got lucky. I was scrolling through Twitter one day, and I saw the Howard University men’s basketball page. They posted they were looking for managers… So I sent an email saying ‘I’m interested, when’s the meeting?’ Then they  said, ‘we have two days of meetings, come through and you’ll learn about what we do in all the roles and you’ll be in’”

“So, at first I was a little taken aback. I’m like, oh, it’s just that easy? Like, you just on the staff like that? However, the more I’ve gotten to learn about the program and how we run stuff–especially from the managers–it all made sense later.”

What made you want to handle statistics for the team?

“When I first got on the staff, I wouldn’t say we were disorganized, but we were still figuring things out. We had all the managers doing everything on the fly. The way I was able to differentiate myself was getting good at stats. So, we have a stat that we keep; it’s called EGB’s–energy generating behaviors–and it’s really like the engine/identity of the program. I was able to get really good at that and it kind of just escalated from there. Since I was good at it, I was able to teach other people while growing as a leader as well, and now I’m head manager for statistics.”

So once you carved out that role as the statistic manager, do you feel more roles started being solidified throughout the managerial staff? 

“For sure. Initially, since nobody really had a specific role, everybody did everything, like I said. I would say towards the beginning of last season, we brought in our chief program strategist Daniel Marks, and with that came a certain level of organization as well. Last season, we had five different cohorts; five different defined roles and tasks for managers. We had court statistics, travel operations, equipment, social media, and social justice.”

“We developed a good staff when it comes to that because we have the largest staff of managers in the entire nation by far. The unique thing about Howard is we’re at a campus that’s majority female and that’s reflected in the staff as well; 85 percent of the managers are women and extremely good at their jobs. It’s cool to see how the staff continues to expand. It’s crazy.”

Na’im Briggs pictured as the USA Basketball Torch Leadership Fellow. Photo Courtesy of @naim.briggs)

Speaking of that, I’ve even seen on Instagram how the managerial staff has expanded to now being the largest staff you guys have had at Howard. How does it feel to see the staff being able to grow from when you first got there to now, and how will it affect the team this year?

“Some of the biggest parts of growth are not only getting a lot more people to join, but also getting the people who are returning to come back stronger. As far as returners are involved, over the summers and throughout the semesters and things like that, there are a lot of opportunities for growth and development.”

“Personally, through the program, I worked with USA basketball. Initially, it was as a support staffer, but I recently was announced as one of the fellows for the Torch Foundation leaders in sports fellowship. So that was big for me, too–but it’s not just me. Another one of our head managers, Tania Smith, was working with the Detroit Pistons over the summer. Another manager, Antonette Glenn, worked with Nike over the summer. We just had a lot of different things going on. We have many different perspectives and unique experiences coming in, and it just synergizes well so we can maximize not only the dreams of the managers and the staff, but the players too.”

“We’re really putting the best product on the court playing, but also outside the court representing the program and Howard as a whole.”

What are some things you’re looking forward to in this season in terms of having this big staff, and also going into the season with some of the highest expectations that Howard has had in a long time?

“With the high expectations, I don’t think anybody has higher expectations than people on staff and the people around the program. We like to call our program “the dream factory,” and that’s what we’re seeking out to do. I want to repeat as MEAC Champions and stuff like that, but I know in my heart that we’re destined for bigger than that.”

“So, I just want to have a good season. But my biggest goal is to get us back to the NCAA tournament. But not only play in it–I want to win some games. I want to get to an elite eight appearance, a final four bid. I want to win the whole thing. I really think we can do it. So, that’s what I’m looking forward to in the season. It’ll be a good one, for sure.”

It was a pleasure to get the chance to interview Na’im Briggs as he prepares to start readying up with the team to get prepared for the season.

Article featured image is the management staff for the 2023-24 season. Photo Courtesy of @HUmensBB on Instagram.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *