By Mike Patton
NASHVILLE, TN — A celebrity basketball game capped off the inaugural TSU Deserve 2 Win Weekend on June 26. The game featured San Francisco 49ers WR JuJuan Jennings, current Tampa Bay Bucs offensive guard Shaq Mason, University of Memphis head coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and former Tigers guard Patrick Miller.
There was excitement and a buzz in the Gentry Center throughout the entire game as amazing shots were hit, dunks were made and showmanship on the court was presented. The for the weekend came out of a brainstorming session with Tennessee State University’s men’s basketball coach Brian “Penny” Collins and some of his coaches.
“Me and my coaches were sitting in the office thinking of ways we can continue to push our program in the right direction. Our student experience is our main priority and secondly is engaging our fan base,” Collins said.
From that brain storming session, plans for the Deserve to Win weekend became a reality. Celebrities were asked to come and the excitement and the money raised for the program happened. And TSU athletic director Mikki Allen was all in.
“Coach Penny (Collins) did a phenomenal job really coordinating this event,” she said.
Along with Allen being behind his men’s head basketball coach, the players that were brought in, like former Titans tight end MyCole Pruitt, understood what this game meant.
“This was really a great honor. Coach Penny (Collins) called me up and told me he wanted me to play and I said yes right away. I see what he is doing out here with this program and it’s really important for us as Black people, to come together and support HBCUs. So, I was on it right from the jump.”
Memphis head coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway also knew it was a no-brainer to come and play because of his friend, Brian “Penny”Collins. “Penny has done a phenomenal job since he has been at TSU and I’m just being a supporter. I believe in what he does and I believe in his mission and this weekend is to raise money for their men’s and women’s programs.”
Along with this weekend raising money for the men’s and women’s basketball programs and bringing in celebrities in Gentry Center at Tennessee State University, it also was a way to bring TSU and the city even closer together.
“It was not only events to advance our programs; it’s another opportunity that we’ve had to engage the Nashville community and also to continue to put the message out there that we are doing great things at Tennessee State and we also need the support of not only our fan base and alums, but everyone that loves the Big Blue,” Allen said.
Nashville and supporters of TSU showed up to the tune of 4,127 fans out for the game. There were performances from the Hadley Park Line Steppers during the game as well as a performance at halftime by TSU point guard Marcus Fitzgerald Jr.
The Deserve 2 Win Celebrity Weekend will be around for awhile, according to Coach Collins.
“We will be back next year. This event will continue to grow.”