Howard University women’s basketball heads into the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Tournament intent on keeping a good season going. The Bison enter the tournament as the number one seed for the North division following a 14–3 regular season (10–2 in conference play). Last week, there was also some excellent news as senior guard Jayla Thornton (from Newark, New Jersey) was named MEAC Player of the Year, freshman Anzhane’ Hutton Rookie of the Year and coach Ty Grace Coach of the Year.
“I’m happy for the team. I’m happy for those young ladies that got the honors,” said Grace, who is in her sixth season as head coach at Howard. “I don’t coach to get Coach of the Year, but to be recognized by your peers and the league is a great honor.”
It’s been a season unlike any that Grace has experienced in her coaching career. When the players and coaching staff returned to campus last fall, they agreed despite challenges there would be a level of commitment. It has been a day-by-day process and the players understood things could change on a moment’s notice.
“I tried not to worry about what was going to happen,” said Grace, who grew up on Long Island. “I tried to be prepared for whatever was going to happen. When I say be prepared, I mean ready to make decisions to give our team the best opportunity to (1) keep our season going and (2) to make sure they were in a good space.”
Grace has become more patient and learned how to communicate effectively while wearing a mask. This difficult year has also fostered appreciation for being around people she cares about. Being a coach at Howard is deeply rewarding.
“I take a lot of pride in being a Black female coach and being at Howard,” said Grace, who spent a season as an assistant coach at Seton Hall University under the late Anne Donovan, whom she considered a mentor. “My purpose is to impact young women. Young Black women is even more meaningful. I want them to see that being a young Black woman you can be anything.”
Howard begins MEAC Tournament play on Friday in the semi-finals. While a trip to the NCAA Tournament is a goal, Grace said she, her coaching staff and the players are taking things one game at a time.
“Our first stop is the semi-final,” Grace said. “Obviously, the bigger goal is to go to the NCAA Tournament, but we’ve got to take care of business on Friday first.”