Howard Braces For Barack Obama Basketball Apperance

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 10, 2008; 6:33 PM

The Howard University men's basketball team is preparing for a season opener unlike any in the history of the program.

Inside tiny Burr Gymnasium on Friday night, a few thousand spectators will be less interested in watching the Howard-Oregon State game than they will be in watching who else might be watching the game, namely President-elect Barack Obama and wife Michelle Obama, whose brother is first-year Oregon State Coach Craig Robinson.

Since the schedule was released in late summer, Howard students have been abuzz over whether the Obamas would be in attendance, and Howard Athletic Director Dwight Datcher said yesterday there remains a possibility that either or both Obamas could make their way to the 2,700-seat gymnasium. He expects to know by tomorrow.

"If they are in Washington, I don't know why they wouldn't come to the game," Howard Coach Gil Jackson said. "He likes basketball, and he and Craig are boys. They are supportive and would probably want to see Craig play as much as they could. My sister is coming to the game."

Datcher said 20-25 security personnel are usually on hand for home games, including those who man doors. An appearance by the Obamas would mean enhanced university security -- Datcher did not have specifics yesterday -- in addition to the Secret Service detail for the Obamas.

"How they handle security, they may not publicize that ahead of time," Jackson said. "They may just show up."

Depending upon who is in the gym, a ticket to watch two teams that won a combined 12 games last season could suddenly become coveted. A ticket-office official said tickets are still available ($15 and $20) but declined to say how many remained.

Robinson, who spent the past two seasons as Brown's head coach, had nothing to do with scheduling Friday's game. Former Coach Jay John scheduled the game to give center Calvin Hampton a chance to play close to his home in Fort Washington.

Jackson, who is from Wilmington, Del., said he knows Vice President-elect Joe Biden, which Jackson believes could make for an interesting dynamic in Friday's game.

"Obama is going to be for Craig, Joe can go with his homeboy," Jackson said. "We'll see what happens. I'm just trying to get our team ready to play."

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