Although Bria Cade wasn’t present for the Gonzaga University men’s basketball game against No. 11 Tennessee to open the season, she is a big reason the teams met in the first place.
The charity pay-per-view game was the first event of its kind on the college basketball landscape as it leveraged the brands of each respective school to raise money for the John McLendon Foundation, which was established in 1999 to honor McLendon’s legacy as a trailblazer, pioneer and the first African American professional head coach.
Cade was part of the John McLendon Foundation’s Minority Leadership Initiative (MLI), which aims to provide minorities with a jump-start to their careers through practical experiences, opportunities to build their network and instilling the values of John McLendon, according to the foundation’s website.
GU head coach Mark Few championed MLI at GU as one of 35 program ambassadors drawn from collegiate head coaches from across the nation. This meant the creation of a role within the GU athletic department for an underrepresented minority to further their career goals thanks to sponsorship from Few and oversight from the foundation.
“The thing I love about this, is that this is action,” Few said on the Coffee with Cal show when the partnership was announced. “And we’re finally doing something.”
Cade’s role as a marketing and communication assistant for the athletic department is the initial result of the initiative at GU. A graduate of North Carolina A&T, Cade was one of hundreds of applicants who underwent multiple rigorous rounds of interviews before being selected as one of the foundation’s Future Leaders for 2021-22.
“I’m just extremely grateful that I’m selected to be a Future Leader at GU, and honor them through the foundation that represents John McLendon,” Cade said. “[McLendon] was a pioneer in college athletics, he’s the inventor of the fast break and he’s responsible for the integration of college basketball.”
Originally from Atlanta, Cade grew up surrounded by athletics. At 4 years old, she began cheering and playing basketball, following in the footsteps of her brother and cousins who played hoops as well. It was in seventh grade when Cade noticed ESPN anchor Sage Steele broadcasting the NBA Finals. The rest is history.
“I saw Sage Steele and it just clicked,” Cade said. “She’s talking about sports, she’s on TV, like that’s what I want to do.”
Steele’s role as a Black woman on a national broadcast became a goal of sorts for Cade, who stayed involved in sports throughout college. Her freshman year, she managed the men’s basketball team on its way to a conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance while cheering for the football team in the fall. Thanks to her job as the play-by-play announcer for NC A&T, she received a recommendation from her athletic director that helped get her foot in the McLendon Foundation door.
After enduring a rigorous application process that included over 500 applicants, Cade got to choose what school she wanted to work for as part of the initiative. She landed on GU, as the role was structured primarily around communications, Cade’s main interest. It didn’t hurt that the Zags made a national impression on her and her family when they watched the 2017 national championship game, either.
“For me, it was, Gonzaga is interested in somebody for communications, am I interested in Gonzaga?” Cade said. “Am I really committed to moving across the country for this position? You’re darn skippy I was.”
When she received the phone call that her role at GU was secured, she booked a flight to Spokane immediately without knowing where she would stay or what snow looked or felt like. The only level of familiarity she had with the small Jesuit school in the Pacific Northwest was from watching the team play in nationally broadcast games. Still, like much of her experience at GU, she’s found her niche on the fly.
The MLI encourages future leaders to shape their respective roles in a way that encourages curiosity and development towards their ultimate career. As a result, Cade has done a bit of everything for GU athletics. Her broadcasting responsibilities include color commentating the GU women’s basketball team to sideline reporting for the Mark Few Show. When she’s not broadcasting, Cade moonlights as a photographer, videographer and photo editor for marketing, doing her part to make the most of her stint in Spokane.
“I’m extremely grateful that coach Few saw opportunity with the McLendon Foundation,” Cade said. “That has resulted in a meaningful employment experience for myself. I’m trying to be a sports broadcaster in the future and I want to work in athletics and sport. For him to be interested in being an ambassador and a mentor to myself, I am extremely grateful for coach Few.”
Cade not only hopes to make it as sports broadcaster but use her platform to inspire change. In the short term, she wants her presence on sports broadcasts to motivate and empower others that they, too, can pursue their dream. In the long term, Cade wants to host her own show highlighting women’s athletics, specifically giving female athletes a platform to talk about themselves, their lives and journeys.
“Representation matters, you have to see somebody else like you to give you the motivation and make you feel empowered like, hey, ‘I can do that too,’” Cade said. “I want to tell your story about who you are, so my goal and my role that I have right now is definitely to bring more awareness to women in sports.”
Though Cade departed from GU this past spring, she will further her education at the Louisiana State University Marship School of Mass Communication while working as a reporter for Southern University athletics.
“I didn’t know anything about [Gonzaga],” Cade said. “But I knew what I wanted, and I knew the program, and the program stuck with me.”
Credit: Source link