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New basketball court at Paul Quinn College puts Dallas' Black history front and center

A shiny black and white basketball court at Paul Quinn college depicts a historical image of the Dallas skyline in 1920. The women's basketball teams run across the court in mustard and red uniforms.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
Paul Quinn College women's basketball team plays on the brand new court for the first time since it was unveiled, on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021.

The historically Black college recently hosted its first basketball games on its new court, which ESPN has deemed one of the best court designs in the country.

The sneakers of the women’s basketball team squeaked on the shiny new court at Paul Quinn College, Southern Dallas’ historically Black college and Texas’ first HBCU.

For the first time last Saturday, the men’s and women’s basketball teams played on their new home turf: a black and white basketball court depicting historical images of the Dallas skyline from the 1920s.

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Keren Carrión
Brandon Johnson, senior at Paul Quinn College and guard on the men's basketball team, plays on the brand new court during a game on Nov. 6, 2021.

The court received national recognition after ESPN dubbed it one of the best court designs in the country. Designer Ryan Parker, with FreeKeyThree Creative, says it’s surreal.

“What really resonates with people is that it tells a story, it’s not just a basketball court,” Parker said. “That’s what I love about it.”

The foundation for the court’s design was to highlight both the history of the college and the area in southern Dallas where it's located. Parker used historical images from 1919 and 1920, when segregation laws were still in place in Dallas, to capture the history of Paul Quinn and show how the institution has changed since then.

Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell painted a picture for the design that Parker couldn’t shake.

“He said ‘what used to be our ceiling is now our floor,’” Parker recalls. “I was blown away by that.”

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Keren Carrión
The crowd cheers during Paul Quinn College men's basketball game on its new court.

With COVID protocols, a maximum of 500 Quinnites were allowed to fill the stands for last week's games. The basketball court, which doubles as the school’s new Health and Wellness Center, can fit up to 1,100 people.

Kesmyre Smalls, who plays volleyball for Paul Quinn, is just proud to support her team in person.

“With COVID going on, we have to support our Quinnites,” Smalls said. “It’s the first game in our new gym so we gotta tee 'em up.”

The basketball teams had been off for an entire year because of the pandemic. Erica Anderson, the head coach of Paul Quinn's women’s basketball program worked to get the team mentally ready to get back on the court, and she said the new facility helped with the players' confidence.

“They were continuously bringing up the fact that we have to be extremely successful this year because everybody knows who we are now,” she said.

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Keren Carrión
Paul Quinn College women's basketball team win against Arlington Baptist College during their first home game of the season on Nov. 6, 2021.

At the end of the day, Anderson just wants them to be successful, no matter where they play.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) league. This year, the men’s team will play five NCAA Division 1 teams including University of Missouri, Texas State University and Tarleton State University.

The next home game for the women's team will be on Nov. 26 and 27 against Dillard University and Philander Smith. The men's basketball team will return to their home turf on Dec. 16 against University of North Texas at Dallas.

“Paul Quinn is a very small school in Dallas,” freshman Michaela Johnson said. “With the new gym, it’s gonna put Paul Quinn on the map.”

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Keren Carrión
Paul Quinn College men's basketball team wait for the national anthem ahead of their first game on the new court, which depict historical images of the Dallas skyline.

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Keren Carrión is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Got a tip? Email Keren at Kcarrion@kera.org. You can follow Keren on Twitter @kerencarrion8.