When Dr. Edward Scott, athletic director at Morgan State, took a phone call from John Thompson III, senior vice president of player development for the Washington Wizards, on Sept. 16, it took their two entities less than three weeks to finalize an agreement for the Wizards to hold an open practice at Hill Field House in Baltimore on Monday.
Scott quipped that both sides were eager to get the deal signed, sealed and delivered.
“It was a matter of him telling me the date and me getting with our facilities folks to make sure the facility was available,” he said.
Fans of the Baltimore Bullets can take a trip down Memory Lane when the Washington Wizards return to Baltimore for an open practice at Morgan State University on Monday, Oct. 11, at 11:30 a.m., the team announced Tuesday.
The Wizards’ ties to Baltimore run deep. They were once the Baltimore Bullets after the organization moved from Chicago in 1963. The Bullets played their home games at the Baltimore Civic Center until 1973 when they relocated to the Capital Centre in Landover.
Thompson, former Georgetown head coach and son of the late John Thompson Jr., pointed out that new Washington head coach Wes Unseld Jr. grew up in Catonsville and Westminster, graduated from Loyola Blakefield, and played basketball at Johns Hopkins and that his late father Wes Unseld was the face of the franchise during its time in Baltimore. Also, rookie power forward Isaiah Todd grew up in Baltimore before moving to Richmond, Virginia, while in middle school.
“We just want to take steps to reach back to that market and strengthen our relationship with Baltimore,” Thompson said. “So it just made sense. And with Morgan State in particular, if you look at the work that [university president] Dr. [David K.] Wilson has done with the school over there and Dr. Scott and [men’s coach] Kevin Broadus in basketball, I thought it was just a natural tie-in to reach out to them and see if they would host us.”
This will mark the first time the Wizards have held an open practice at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Scott took that realization in stride.
“The HBCU part is really important because I think it gives a platform for HBCUs,” he said. “But since I’ve been at Morgan, we’ve been the first to do a lot of things. For me, it’s just part of doing business. So I’m happy and proud that we’re the first to do it, but like other things we’ve done, my hope is that it will open up doors for other HBCUs as well.”
Morgan State is the only college or university that will host Washington this fall. Scott said he would not be surprised if the NBA organization and the university worked together again, but emphasized that his top priority is Monday.
“I think we’ve got to make sure that this one goes well,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure that we’re good hosts. Not only do we have to make sure that the facilities are ready for them, but we as a staff have to be prepared to support them and that kind of thing. I think if it does go well, I could foresee there being future collaborations just because of the existing relationships and proximity between Morgan and D.C.”
Thompson said Wizards officials are not waiting for a certain turnout from fans to affirm another opportunity with Morgan State.
“I don’t think we’re going into this strictly from a business perspective,” he said. “We’re not waiting to see how many people show up or what the experience is. We hope we have a great experience, but just getting back into that area more than we have in recent years is something we want to do.”
Morgan State students, faculty and staff and local fans are invited to watch practice and scrimmage, are encouraged to park in the North Campus garage, and should use the main concourse doors. G-Wiz and Wizards Dancers will also be in attendance.
The practice will take place at Hill Field House at 1700 E. Cold Spring Lane in Baltimore. The first 500 fans will receive a free collectible t-shirt. Fans can RSVP by visiting info.washingtonwizards.com/openpractice2021