Sunday, August 13, 2017

Howard Bison RJ Cole Is Ready To Leave His Mark On The Hilltop

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It's a new year on the horizon for the Howard University men's basketball team and freshman guard RJ Cole is ready to make his mark.

The three-star athlete under ESPN's ranking of the nation's top prep stars came to The Mecca from nationally ranked St. Anthony High School. With offers from various Division I programs, including crosstown rival Georgetown, Cole knew he wanted to switch things up.

"I chose Howard because of the education but I also wanted to be different, coming here for basketball," said Cole. "I thought this would be a change for me and a change for anyone else who would think of this as a different opportunity. This is a family. I like the culture here and the storied history around Howard."

Being different isn't an easy task, which Cole is learning as his first summer as a collegiate student-athlete winds down.

"Honestly, it's a lot," Cole stated. "It's been hard because I'm not used to having long classes, being so tired. We have to be in the weight room, at conditioning, practice, open gym and individual workouts. It's a big transition but I'm getting used to it. I just have to buckle down and take care of myself, getting the proper rest that I need. Even though it's a lot, it's really good to be around my teammates. Everyone here is cool and we're getting to know each other so it'll be easier when the season starts."

Although he spends plenty of time on Howard's campus, Cole had the chance to participate in one of D.C.'s most storied basketball traditions, playing in the Kenner League. He even got to team up with fellow Bison Charles "CJ" Williams.

"It's really helping because everyone is bigger than me," mentioned Cole. "It's more of a physical thing. Being able to get used to playing against pros and college guys helps me learn what to expect. How to take those hits or bumps and bruises now because I'm getting used to it this summer. It's helping a lot to be playing with CJ too. Playing in the Kenner League, we've been involving each other more and it'll help us during the season. We'll be able to gel better when it comes to those big situations, those big games."

Cole proved in high school that he was ready for big moments after he helped lead St. Anthony to a state title, the 28th overall under longtime head coach Bob Hurley Sr. However, he couldn't hide the fact that it took plenty of hard work to get there.

"When I first transferred to St. Anthony, it was tough because I wasn't used to someone always being on me," Cole admitted. "My dad was my coach before but this was different. Coach Hurley always had something to say. At first, I looked at it in the wrong manner but as I got older I realized that everything he said was because he wanted us to do well. He wanted us to do good for ourselves and good in life. It was a great experience. The player I was for him my senior year opened up doors for me. Our relationship is really close. I still talk to him and his family."

As he continues his transition into college life with the 2017-18 school year starting in a couple weeks, the Union, N.J. native is on the path to having a successful rookie season.

"I've been playing basketball my whole life," Cole emphasized. "Being on the floor. Being able to play every night, to show up and put a jersey on your back. That's what it's about."

We'll definitely be watching. Will you?

by Candace Johnson, Assistant Director of Athletic Media Relations

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