Howard University Women’s Basketball Heads to First NCAA Tournament in 21 Years

By Brittany Bailer

The Howard University Women’s Basketball team is headed to the NCAA Tournament after winning its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championship in 21 years. On March 12, the Lady Bison defeated rival Norfolk State in a 61-44 win to claim their 11th conference title. On Wednesday March 16 at 7 p.m., they will compete against the University of Incarnate Word in South Carolina in the first round of the tournament.

The Lady Bison were led to victory by an impressive effort from sophomore Destiny Howell. Howell, the team’s leading scorer, recorded a career-high 25 points in the MEAC title game and was named the 2022 MEAC Most Outstanding Performer. The New York native also recorded six rebounds, two steals and two blocks to help bring the Bison to victory. The team’s defense was an essential element of this win, as they limited Norfolk State to a 23 percent field goal percentage.

The players aren’t the team’s only key to success. Head Coach Ty Grace has been a transformative force for the organization. She was named the 2022 MEAC Most Outstanding Coach. “It was just a matter of finding the right student-athletes that believe in Howard and believe in Howard basketball, and I give credit to my staff and myself in terms of trying to find the right pieces,” said Grace. Her philosophy of recruiting players who are serious about success in basketball and education is what she attributes to the team’s winning record.

Becoming the Lady Bison’s head coach in 2015, Grace was faced with the task of revitalizing the team. In just the past two seasons, the team’s overall winning percentage increased 18 percent. Rather than focusing on selecting high-performing athletes, Grace took the initiative to establish an entirely new culture for the Lady Bison. She and her staff made the conscious decision that they wanted to reflect the entirety of what an athlete can be. Emphasizing success on and off the court has resulted in the team’s average GPA increasing from 2.6 to 3.3 since 2015. “When everyone puts their mind to it, and they buy in, that’s the result you get. You get great student-athletes, and then you find your way to a MEAC championship”

Coach Grace came to Howard with an impressive background as a transformative head coach and a former collegiate athlete herself. As an athlete at the University of New Haven, Grace was one of only two New Haven Chargers to record 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds during her career. She was inducted into her alma mater’s athletics hall of fame in 2010. The work ethic she developed as a player is a foundational element of her coaching philosophy. Having had success at her alma mater as a player and coach, she knew coaching at Howard was her next move. “When the opportunity came to coach at Howard, I thought [it] would be one of the best opportunities in my lifetime. To be able to coach with people that look like you, that talk like you, was just an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” said Grace.

The women’s basketball team has cemented its legacy in the history of Howard athletics and are looking forward with pride to this year’s NCAA Tournament. The team’s focus going into this game, according to Grace, will be to enjoy the experience. “No matter what the end result is, I want them to know that they have earned it. They put themselves in the position to be where they are today,” Grace said.

The ability to make the Howard community proud is also a huge motivating factor. “To put the University out there in such a positive light, I think you couldn’t have asked for anything better, especially during Women’s History Month,” Grace said. She encourages female athletes never to limit themselves based on their race, gender or profession. Maintaining a strong foundation and belief in yourself will be your key to success.

If the Bison win their game on Wednesday, they will move on to play the No. 1 seed, University of South Carolina on Friday, March 18.