Fisk University’s Jeremiah Armstead will receive the U.S. Basketball Writers Association 2024 Perry Wallace Most Courageous award at the NCAA Final Four. George Walker IV/Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jeremiah Armstead moved around so much he wasn’t even eligible to play high school basketball until his senior year.

He never lost faith through all the nights his family slept in their car when they couldn’t get a hotel room or into a shelter. Especially that first night at a beach parking lot after leaving Philadelphia for California only to learn their new home had disappeared.

A police officer came by their car that night with no parking allowed after midnight and saw a family of four sleeping.

“He let us stay there,” Armstead said. “So just encounters like that, with, like, everyday good people, it just helped me to not, like, be mad at the world and what I got going on and just wait, which I did. I waited four or five years, and now it’s something finally changing.”

Armstead not only has survived, he has flourished.

On Monday, the Fisk forward will make history as the first player from a historically Black college or university or NAIA school to receive the Perry Wallace Most Courageous Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association at their awards luncheon hours before the national championship game.


“I don’t think it’ll sink in fully until I get there to the Final Four and experience everything,” Armstead said of learning about the award, which is named for a Nashville native who made history as the first Black man to play basketball in the Southeastern Conference at Vanderbilt.

His coach, Kenny Anderson, marvels at Armstead.

Anderson played 14 NBA seasons after being the No. 2 pick overall of the 1991 draft. But his family was evicted from their home in Queens, New York, when he was a high school junior. Anderson stayed with a cousin, visiting his mother each morning before school until they got a new place.

“It’s satisfying for me to know that I’m helping someone that’s been in a situation like me,” Anderson said. “So Jeremiah’s, he’s doing a hell of a job just with his family, the situation. And he’s just a good kid.”

The 6-foot-5 Armstead was born in Atlanta and lived in Philadelphia until his mother moved to Long Beach, California, to live with someone close enough to count as family. Except that woman unexpectedly moved to Texas, leaving Mindy Brooks and her three children stranded.

They stayed in a hotel for a couple weeks, then wound up in a shelter in Santa Monica. His mother drove him to school, a 40-minute trip one way so she waited in a parking lot for classes to wrap up to save gas and money.


Shelter time limits also forced them to move around, making even practicing basketball a challenge for a family focused first on surviving. They finally got some stability for his senior year, living in an apartment during his first semester and into the second.

That gave Armstead time to improve his game.

“I could just wake up at 6, go to school, catch the bus and everything,” Armstead said. “I didn’t have to worry about my mom waiting outside in the car all day or anything like that. So the mental fatigue was kind of wearing off.”

Stephen Bernstein helped connect Armstead with Fisk through his foundation, We Educate Brilliant Minds, based in Los Angeles.

Once Armstead arrived in Nashville, he started eating better and got busy dropping at least 30 pounds over his first two seasons.

Yet a school official learned Armstead was sending what he could home to help his family. Even that wasn’t enough as his family kept moving from shelters to a hotel and back to the car. Finally last November, his mother, sister and brother finally moved into their own apartment.


Anderson has worked to help Armstead develop his basketball skills. The forward played seven games as a freshman and 12 this season, helping Fisk go 14-16.

While his family has a place to live, Armstead’s mother is fighting health issues. She also cares for his brother Marcus, 18, who didn’t learn to read and write until he was 13 after being hit by a car as a child, and his sister Armani, 14, will be a high school freshman this fall.

“I have seen the worst of the worst,” Armstead said.

Basketball has been his safe place. Now he is in the best physical shape of his life and majoring in kinesiology and almost halfway to a college degree he never thought would be possible. He turned 20 on March 26, an age he never envisioned reaching, let alone celebrating and planning a future.

“It showed me why … I should keep doing what I’m doing and keep having faith in God because a few years ago I didn’t think I was going to be here and I’m here,” Armstead said.

AWARDS: Zach Edey of Purdue and Tristen Newton of UConn are among the five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award as the nation’s outstanding men’s college basketball player of the season.


Joining them are RJ Davis of North Carolina, Dalton Knecht of Tennessee and Jamal Shead of Houston.

Edey, who won the award last year, and Newton, will lead their teams at this weekend’s Final Four in Arizona.

All five players have been invited to Los Angeles for the 48th annual dinner on April 12, three days after the winner is announced on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”.

RATINGS: The Elite Eight game between NC State and Duke produced the largest audience for an Easter Sunday telecast on any network in 11 years.

The Wolfpack’s 76-64 victory over the Blue Devils in the South Region final averaged 15.1 million viewers on CBS, according to Nielsen. The 2013 Elite Eight game between Duke and Louisville averaged 15.6 million.

Overall, the NCAA Tournament is averaging 9.4 million viewers on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, a 4% increase over last year.


Sunday’s first game between Purdue and Tennessee averaged 10.4 million, making it the most-watched early regional final in five years.

Sunday’s viewer average of 12.8 million is a 30% increase over last year, and the most-watched Elite Eight doubleheader since 2019.

NIT: Ryan Conwell matched his career high with 27 points and Robbie Avila had 26 points and 10 rebounds to help top-seeded Indiana State take advantage of a heavily partisan home-state crowd to beat second-seeded Utah 100-90 at Indianapolis to advance to the NIT championship game.

Isaiah Swope added 15 points — all in the second half — and eight assists for Indiana State (32-6), which reached its first national tourney title game since Larry Bird took the unbeaten Sycamores to the 1979 NCAA title game against Magic Johnson and Michigan State.

A win Thursday in Indianapolis, against either top-seeded Seton Hall (23-12) or fourth-seeded Georgia (20-16), would allow the Sycamores to tie the 1978-79 team’s single-season school record for victories.

CHARLESTON: College of Charleston hired former Louisville coach Chris Mack as its men’s coach after its last coach, Pat Kelsey, left to take the Cardinals’ job last week.


Athletic director Matt Roberts said Mack agreed to a five-year contract to take over the program.

Mack made the NCAA Tournament nine times in 12 full seasons as coach at Xavier and Louisville. Mack’s time with the Cardinals ended in January 2022 when he was dismissed with the team at 6-8. Mack had been suspended the first six games of the season by Louisville, which said he violated school guidelines in his firing of one-time Cardinals assistant coach Dino Gaudio.

Mack has not coached since then.

WESTERN KENTUCKY: Western Kentucky promoted assistant Hank Plona to replace Coach Steve Lutz, who was hired by Oklahoma State after leading the Hilltoppers to the NCAA Tournament in his lone season.

Plona joined the program this past season and helped guide WKU to the Conference USA Tournament championship and first NCAA berth since 2013. The 15th-seeded ‘Toppers (22-12) fell in the first round to No. 2 seed Marquette in Indianapolis.

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