Courtesy of Howard University Athletic Media Relations and Duke University Athletics Communications
DURHAM, N.C., Nov. 2, 2020 – The Howard University men’s basketball team is set to co-host the Mako Medical Duke Classic multi-team event (MTE) with Duke University, honoring Dr. Onye E. Akwari (OWN-yay ak-WAR-ee), in early December.
The contests involving HU features the Bison taking on Bellarmine University (Dec. 6) and Elon University (Dec. 8) inside Burr Gymnasium. Duke will host the same two squads Dec. 4 (Bellarmine) and Dec. 6 (Elon). Times and TV have noy yet been announced.
The late Dr. Akwari, a Nigerian-American and the first African-American surgeon on the faculty of Duke University, passed away in Durham in April 2019 at the age of 76. Recruited to Duke as associate professor of surgery in the School of Medicine in 1978, Akwari was revered for advancing the cause of both underrepresented minorities and women in the field of medicine. Notably, Akwari organized the first meeting for the Society of Black Academic Surgeons in 1989 – a gathering that included Dr. LaSalle Leffall Jr., who was the chair of surgery at Howard University and a contemporary of Akwari’s.
“The connections for so many of us trace back to our time at Duke, and to those who invested in me not only as a player, but as a person and as a man,” Howard head men’s basketball coach Kenneth Blakeney said. “Dr. Akwari was one of those people who showed incredible kindness and support while serving as an exemplary model, scholar, administrator, and African-American male.”
Leffall, who passed away last year, would later serve as president of the society. Among his many pupils and mentees was Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, who is a surgeon and the sitting president of Howard University.
“Howard University, coached by one of our former players, Kenny Blakeney, is a co-host, and we felt it important at this time to have one of the great Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU),” Duke head men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “It gives us and the other teams an opportunity for two additional games and gives all an opportunity to honor such a great man in Dr. Akwari.”
In addition to Akwari and Leffall, the connections between Duke and Howard run deep with Blakeney entering his second year as Howard’s head coach. Blakeney played under Krzyzewski in the early 1990s, was part of Duke’s 1991 and 1992 national championship squads and is one of 10 of Coach K’s former players currently a Division-I head coach. Howard’s coaching staff also includes former Blue Devils Tyler Thornton as an assistant coach an Thomas Hill as the director of basketball operations.
“I welcome the opportunity to extend his [Dr. Akwari] legacy by expanding those roots from Nigeria to Duke and now to Howard, often referred to as ‘The Mecca,'” said. “I believe Dr. Akwari would be proud to see myself, as well as fellow Duke alums Thomas Hill and Tyler Thornton together at Howard while training the next generation of student-athletes in a similar fashion.”
The remainder of Howard’s 2020-21 men’s basketball nonconference schedule has yet to be announced.
The college basketball season is set to tipoff Wednesday, Nov. 25.