Notre Dame coach Mike Brey and Howard coach Kenny Blakeney hold deep connections, having both played for legendary DeMatha Catholic High School coach Morgan Wooten and spent time together at Duke and Delaware.
On Monday, those connections will grow even deeper on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as Bray leads the Fighting Irish (10-6) against Blakeney's Bison (6-7) in Washington, D.C. The nationally televised afternoon game will mark Notre Dame's first visit to a Historically Black University.
"This game came about as a result of a conversation that I had with Mike Brey," Blakeney told the Washington Informer. "I have always had great respect for him. He is a progressive thinker and he saw this as an opportunity to educate his young student-athletes on the value of history of African Americans."
The game was originally slated for last season but was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that shelved Howard's season after five games.
"It's an absolute honor to be on the Howard University campus on MLK Day," Brey said. "My players and their parents have asked about this game all season. It's a powerful educational experience for our players and for all of the Notre Dame family."
Moreover, longtime national broadcaster Gus Johnson -- a Howard graduate -- will be calling the game on national TV, saying, "To come home to Howard on a special day like MLK Day and to be able to do the game is special. This is truly a great opportunity. It will be like a homecoming for me."
Brey finished at DeMatha in 1977, a decade before Blakeney played at the school in the D.C. suburb of Hyattsville, Md. Brey went on to become an assistant coach for Duke for Mike Krzyzewski, who recruited Blakeney to the Blue Devils.
Duke won two national championships (1992 and 1993) while Blakeney was a player and Brey an assistant. Later, Blakeney spent four seasons on Brey's coaching staff at Delaware, and Brey eventually became head coach at Notre Dame in 2000 and Blakeney at Howard in 2019.
Notre Dame heads into the game with six wins in its past seven games. On Saturday, the Fighting Irish collapsed in the second half of a 79-73 loss at Virginia Tech. They were outscored 47-33 after halftime.
Howard is playing its second game since a three-week COVID-19 pause. The Bison saw games against Yale, Hampton and Penn canceled before they dropped a 77-74 decision to visiting Norfolk State on Saturday.
Last month, Howard led Georgetown by nine in the first half before falling, 85-73. Another defeat came at then-No. 5 Villanova.
The Bison lead the MEAC in scoring at 79.2 points per game and are led by Kyle Foster's 15.2 points. Foster is third in the league in scoring and second in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (52.2 percent), hitting 48 of his 92 attempts.
--Field Level Media