Panthers Shine Bright: VUU Basketball Team's Unforgettable Journey at NBA HBCU Classic

February 19, 2024

On Saturday, February 17th, 2024, the Virginia Union University (VUU) men's basketball team, along with our marching band and cheer team, embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the third annual NBA HBCU Classic at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. 

The NBA HBCU Classic is a special event that honors and celebrates the historic and influential role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in American sports and society. It also serves as an opportunity for HBCU students to gain insight into the world of professional sports and potentially open doors for future career opportunities. 

The Panthers were invited to participate in the classic alongside other top HBCU basketball teams. The team was thrilled and honored to showcase their skills on a national stage (TNT, NBA TV, and ESPN2) and represent our university. 

But it wasn't just about the game. The team and the accompanying band and cheerleaders were also given the chance to participate in various events and activities during their time at the classic. 

Their first event was a welcome meeting with NBA legend and Indianapolis native, Fred Jones. Jones, who played for the Indiana Pacers and won the 2004 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, shared 

words of wisdom and inspiration with the team, encouraging them to work hard and never give up on their dreams. 

The Panthers also had the opportunity to give back to the community through a NBA Cares volunteer activity. They spent the morning helping to package one million meals in 24 hours as part of NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service. 

The ‘Ambassadors of Sound’ band and ‘Rah Rah’ cheer team also got their moment to shine at the Google Pixel Combine Pep Rally, where they performed for a crowd of excited NBA fans and players. Their energetic and spirited performance added even more excitement to the already buzzing atmosphere. 

One of the most memorable events for our Panthers was the HBCU Discussion Panel, featuring Dex Robinson, Luke Lawal Jr., and Rhymefest – all successful HBCU alumni. The panelists shared their experiences and offered advice on how to succeed in both sports and beyond. 

Before the big game, the team had a locker room meeting with some of the NBA's biggest stars. Stephen Curry, Damien Lillard, and Ben Wallace. Wallace, a four-time NBA All-Star who was named to the D1 First Team All America while at VUU, is another highly regarded Panther alumnus to whom we have dedicated our gym. They spoke to the team, offering words of encouragement and advice on how to perform at their best under pressure. 

The excitement continued as the band performed with singer and actress Coco Jones, singing the Black National Anthem "Lift Every Voice" with spirit. The powerful performance left the audience in awe and was a proud moment for both the team and the university. 

But the fun didn't stop there. The Panthers also had the opportunity to attend the All-Star Saturday Night, where they witnessed the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest, and Dunk Contest. Our Panthers were inspired by the incredible athleticism and sportsmanship of the NBA's top players. 

In addition to all the basketball-related events, the team also took part in a career development session and panel. This session included NBA and AT&T executives, corporate partners and NBA staff from various departments, all aimed to equip the students with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in their future careers, whether in sports or other fields. 

The pinnacle of the weekend was, of course, the All-Star Game. The VUU ‘Ambassadors of Sound’ had the honor of performing during the halftime show, alongside Grammy Award-winning artist Jennifer Hudson. The team was proud to represent their university and HBCUs as a whole in front of thousands of NBA fans. 

As the weekend came to an end, our Panthers returned home with unforgettable experiences and memories. The NBA HBCU Classic not only provided them with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but AT&T and the NBA donated $100,000 to VUU as part of their ongoing commitment and support to the importance and impact of HBCUs in the world of sports and 

beyond. The Panthers left Indianapolis with renewed pride in our university and a commitment to continue making an impact on the court and in our community.