Black History Month recognition prominent at U of M women’s game

Kenisha Bell  //
Photo by Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald

Black History Month resonated officially and unofficially throughout the Big 10 Conference women’s basketball matchup between the University of Minnesota and Rutgers.

Not only did the Gophers defeat first-place Rutgers 60-46 behind Kenisha Bell’s (Bloomington Kennedy) 19 points and five assists at Williams Arena last Sunday — along with 11 points and 21 rebounds from Taiye Bello, 14 from Destiny Pitts, and 13 from Jasmine Brunson — there were a few other highlights that focused on African American accomplishments.

Stringer honored

Before the singing of the national anthem, the U of M athletic department honored legendary Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer, who recently notched her 1,000th career victory, for her contributions to the game and African American history.

Littles-Butler sings two national anthems

Dr. Valerie Littles-Butler, an assistant principal at St. Paul Central, sang both “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (the Black national anthem) followed it by “The Star Spangled Banner,” garnering enthusiastic applause from an announced crowd of 4,888.

Littles-Butler starred as a shooting guard for St. Paul Highland Park from 1978-81 before continuing her career at Florida A&M University.

Former shooting guard Wilson honored

Cindy Wilson, a four-year shooting guard from Everett High School in Lansing, Michigan, was honored during the game in celebration of Black History Month. Wilson played from 1983-87.

Her son, former football and basketball great Odell Wilson IV (Minneapolis North), is playing basketball at North Dakota State. Her husband, Odell Wilson III, played football at Penn State from 1986-88.

Roberts not forgotten

During the game I looked up in the rafters and saw a picture of Linda Roberts, the first African American to have her jersey retired by the Gophers. Roberts, who starred as a 6’0” center, is in the rafters with former greats Laura Coenen, Deb Hunter, Carol Ann Shudlick, Lyndsay Whalen and Rachel Banham.

It would be 25 years after concluding her playing career before Roberts, who also led St. Paul Central to the very first Class AA state girls’ basketball championship in 1976, would be so honored.

Twin Cities game could feature Central, North

Minneapolis North and St. Paul Central could meet in the Twin Cities boys’ basketball championship — the game that matches City Conference champions form Minneapolis and St. Paul respectively — on Saturday, March 2.

If they do, one thing is for sure: There will be lots of talent on both sides.

Central, led by a balanced scoring attack courtesy of their starting five, served notice that they are the team to beat in the St. Paul City Conference, scoring a 90-46 victory over defending champion Johnson last Friday evening.

Ronnell Porter //
Photo by Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald

Dion Ford led the way with 21 points, Daveonte Davis had 19, point guard Ronnell Porter added 17, Willie Fountain contributed 15, and Khai West added seven.

The Minutemen built a 53-25 halftime advantage over the Governors — who were led by Larry Harris’ 15 points — and never looked back.

Across the river, five-time defending City Conference champion North defeated arch rival Henry 57-44 after trailing the Patriots 28-24 at the half.

The Polars were led by the outstanding foursome of Nasir El-Amin, Eli Campbell, Willie Wilson and Omar Brown. El-Amin had a team-high 16 points, Campbell had 13, Wilson 12 and Brown 11.

Glentrell Carter led Henry with 11 points.

Both Central, coached by Scott Howell, and North, led by Hall-of-Fame Coach Larry McKenzie, are undefeated in conference play.