Howard Basketball Players Live Hoop Dreams While Getting Ph.D., Law Degrees

Howard Basketball Players Live Hoop Dreams While Getting Ph.D., Law Degrees

Howard basketball players Seth Towns and Joshua Strong are playing out their hoop dreams on the court for the Bison while training to do much more after their careers end.

Towns, 26, who previously attended Harvard University, where he was Ivy League Player of the Year and AP All-America honorable mention as a sophomore, is studying as a doctoral candidate. Meanwhile, Strong, 21, who helped Division II Minnesota-Duluth advance to the NCAA Elite 8 as a sophomore, is working on his law degree.

Together, the two men have helped the Bison to an 8-12 record this season and 2-2 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) behind Delaware State, Norfolk State, and North Carolina Central University. 

Although Towns and Strong are teammates, they took very different routes to Howard.

Knee and back injuries cost Towns his last two seasons at Harvard, but that didn’t stop him from continuing his education. He transferred to Ohio State, where he earned a master’s degree and played one season of basketball (2020-21) in three years. Towns thought his basketball days were over and sat out last season, but he got the itch to play on the hardwood again and filed an NCAA waiver to play at Howard as an eighth-year senior.

Towns told the Columbus Dispatch, like many aspiring ballers, it took him a while to put the game second in his life and his education first. 

“I think I have restructured my relationship with basketball,” Towns said. “It is much healthier now. I’m not saying I put my entire identity into basketball, but man, it was hard because that’s kind of the only professional aspiration I’ve had. Everything else was kind of subsidiary to that.”

Towns, who leads Howard in rebounding (6.8 rpg) assists (43), and is second in scoring (15.2 ppg.) is currently enrolled in a doctoral program in English literature and added he’s proud to attend an HBCU school.

“I knew off jump that I wanted to go to Howard if I had any eligibility left,” Towns, the oldest NCAA basketball player this season, told Slam Magazine. “I feel like the value of something like attending an HBCU isn’t always seen clearly. It’s [ours] to build, ours to protect, and ours to cultivate into this huge magical thing.”

Strong, who’s averaging 5.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg, and 1.5 apg, earned his Bachelor’s degree in two years and applied to the Howard University School of Law. After being accepted, he contacted head basketball coach Kenny Blakeney about walking onto the Bison team. After showing his game during summer workouts, Strong earned a spot on the team and ran the hardwood while preparing himself to excel in the courtroom.

“I always had a passion for social justice,” Strong told The Washington Post. “I guess early, I kind of conceptualized law as the way to attack that. I was always smart, and people would say, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a doctor, engineer.’ Well, how am I going to help Black people?”

While they may not shoot hoops at the next level, the future is bright for both Strong and Towns. According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, 50% of Black lawyers are HBCU graduates, and the Advocate reports Howard University is the best HBCU for English literature majors.

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