A.J. Ross Discusses The HBCU All-Star Game and The Importance of Spotlighting Black Collegiate Sports


By Rashad Grove

For lovers of collegiate basketball, the 2024 March Madness has been one of the most memorable in recent years. With the rivalry between Angel Resse and LSU against Caitlin Clark, the emergence of JuJu Watkins, and the amazing story of the North Carolina State Wolfpack Men’s squad.

Kicking off the weekend, the 3rd annual HBCU All-Star Game will be held at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ, on Sunday, April 7, 2024, and broadcast live on CBS Television Network.

The event will feature some of the top collegiate talent from the MEAC and SIAC conferences taking on the players from the SWAC and CIAA conferences, along with Tennessee State, Hampton, and North Carolina A&T State Universities.

Along with the game, the event will include marching bands, cheerleaders, a dance team, representatives of the  Divine Nine, a college admissions fair, pro day combine, community outreach, initiatives, engagement, scholarship awards,  awards ceremony, social justice, and civil rights panel discussion.

A.J. Ross, a two-time Emmy-winning sideline reporter for CBS Sports and a Howard University graduate, spoke with BET.com. She is calling the game for the second year in a row.

“You can’t see me but I’m grinning from ear to ear because this is one of my favorite assignments I get each year at CBS. As an HBCU alum, I am extremely proud to represent Howard University and HBCUs as a whole because they are phenomenal institutions that embody Black excellence and we have talent across the board that oftentimes doesn’t get the exposure on national television. So for CBS to have this partnership for the last few years during Final Four weekend and to broadcast the game every year on a national network nationally is a huge opportunity for the players and the schools and for a national audience to learn more about these institutions.”

“I think the future is bright for Women’s basketball. When you look at Angel Reese, JuJu Watkins, and Caitlin Clark, there is unlimited talent, and there always has been. With the help of social media and different NBA players such as the late Kobe Bryant bringing more attention to the WNBA and the Women’s game,” Ross explained. “It’s nothing new for those who love watching good basketball to tune in to a women’s game and see some phenomenal talent.

“I appreciate the light that has been shed through legendary coaches like Dawn Staley who are paying homage to the game,  first and foremost, and are pouring into these young women and when they’re being recognized for the talent that has existed and continues to exist today,” she continued.

In sports media, a wave of Black women is occupying numerous roles, including reporting, beat writers, broadcasting, play-by-play announcers, color commentating, and more. Ross spoke about the unprecedented time she is enjoying as one of the leading Black women in the sports space.

“It feels amazing and it does feel like a sisterhood. Like many industries, it can be tough because it’s a male-dominated sector,” Ross said.

“Sometimes, when people see us when things have reached a pinnacle of sports, they don’t necessarily know the journey that it took to get to where we are and to have other women who look like me, who I can confide in, and vice versa, we can uplift one another and inherently understand that it was not easy to get here and to kick these doors open, it’s a huge support to have each other and to root for each other,” she added.”We cheer for each other from afar and know we’re representing those coming behind us very soon.”

In addition to the game and all the related events, Ross hopes that viewers will get a greater appreciation of HBCUs and the significant accomplishments that alumni from these storied institutions have made across the years.

“I hope that viewers will understand that HBCUs have so much history and such great legacies,” she said. “There is a commonality across the board, no matter which HBCU you may visit or be exposed to, they reflect Black’s excellence and give back to their respective communities.”

“That’s the inherent beauty of all HBCUs and it’s great to have sports, step shows, and the bands,” she continued. “But the real gift is being a family setting and the legacy that is imparted once you take steps on those campuses and learn their traditions and learn more about your history and you’re motivated to go out and change the world. I think that’s the real gift and beauty of an HBCU.”