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Big Apple Black College Classic tips off at MSG

Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 4:34 p.m.

If there one's thing collegiate athletics lends itself to, it's bragging. The 2008 Big Apple Classic at Madison Square Garden this Saturday will be for nothing more than bragging rights between basketball teams from four historically Black colleges. Last season, perhaps a little over 7,000 fans were in seats, though perhaps tickets may have been purchased by some sponsors and others that didn't make the gate count. Surely, the organizers hope more people will be in the seats on Saturday. So far in this young season, a victory this weekend could be the only thing any of the four schools could brag about. Bowie State takes on Virginia Union in the first contest and Howard battles Hampton in the nightcap. Howard's led by senior guard Eugene Myatt. The Philadelphia native leads the team with 12.5 points per game and is third on the team with 4.2 rebounds a game. Freshman guard Calvin Thompson, a Louisiana product, is second in team scoring with 10 points a game. If those numbers sound low, they are. Howard's only 1-5 this season and waltzes into the Garden attempting to break a 5-game losing streak.

Their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) rivals Hampton, however, could display an above .500 record when they come to New York this weekend (that is, if they managed to defeat Georgia State University at home last night, Wednesday). Going into the GSU game, Hampton held a 3-3 record that includes an overtime win at Portland State. They're led by junior Michael Freeman's 11.2 points and 4.6 rebounds. Donte Harrison, a Brooklyn native, comes back home for the weekend to display some of his workman-like contributions. The senior forward averages 7.6 points a game and grabs 4.4 rebounds a game.

Bowie State has a 4-3 record, but they're coming off two straight losses to Catawba College and Wingate University. Andrew Engel and Cassin Diggs lead Bowie State with 12.0 and 10.0 points per game respectively. While the schools involved will undoubtedly use Saturday as a platform to showcase themselves and fans attending the games will root for their teams, there'll be one sorely-missed piece from the picture. Virginia Union is only 1-2 this season (including a season-opening 64-point loss at Duke), but Dave Robbins won't be the man trolling the Panthers' sidelines. He retired at the end of last season, capping a three-decade career that saw him go 713-194 with multiple Division II championships. As the first white head coach in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, Robbins was a pioneer in every sense of the word. Amidst the fantastic step team and drum line competitions Saturday, keep Robbins in your mind and applaud the man for a life well-lived.