Last Updated on March 13, 2023
Hoop and Holler, a small micro-collective out of the University of Houston, has partnered with its first female athlete, Laila Blair, a junior guard on the women’s basketball team.
Founded at the end of March Madness last year by husband and wife duo, Mike and Jennifer Pittman, Hoop and Holler became the first collective at the University of Houston. Created with the intention to garner support for the Cougars’ men’s basketball team, the pair also set out to provide opportunities to those who aren’t ‘big names’ in collegiate athletics.
“We might have been the first ‘collective’ at U of H, which was funny to me because it was all sort of on a whim,” said Mike Pittman, Co-Founder of Hoop and Holler Houston.
An Unexpected Beginning
Coming off of an American Athletic Conference title last year, Mike and Jennifer went to a local event to meet the men’s basketball team, and to their surprise there was very little turnout from the community.
“Houston sports fans are fickle, they don’t really rally behind teams unless you’re the professional football team,” Mike said.
The small crowd played to the couple’s advantage, as they were able to discuss all things NIL with the players, sparking the idea to start something of their own.
Up until their announced partnership with Blair, Hoop and Holler have partnered with men’s basketball player Ryan Elvin and the football team’s defensive line to make commercials for the pizza restaurant Mike runs called Star Pizza.
“Every opportunity I get to work with a student athlete on a team feels as though the wall between the field and the court falls down,” Mike said. “I feel like when I go to a game, I’m on the court with them.”
Blair, a 5-foot-8 Houston native, is the first player in program history named to the American All-Conference First Team selection. She’s also the program’s 29th player to reach 1,000 career points against Tulane on Jan. 29.
Her success isn’t just on the court. Blair is the first female athlete to work with the micro-collective and owns her own lifestyle brand called GFIE, short for “God First In Everything.”
The name pays homage to Blair’s late grandmother who passed away in 2018.
“When she passed away, it was devastating for me,” Blair said. “But it sparked a fire inside of me just to make a vow to live out a lifestyle that glorifies God in every way.”
Making a name for herself on and off the court, Mike reached out at the end of the basketball season last year to partner with Blair and promote Star Pizza. With two promotional posts on her Instagram, Blair is looking to join Elvin and the defensive linemen in the series of commercials featuring Houston athletes.
Extending the Female Athlete Team
Blair is also looking to join U of H Softball player Brooke Lorenzo in promoting SWAKE Cosmetics, a sweat-proof makeup brand founded by current postgraduate student at the University of Georgia, Vanessa Sachs.
“I’m grateful and thankful for the opportunity,” Blair said.
Lorenzo, a sophomore infielder for the Cougars, is now the second female athlete to work with Hoop and Holler. This is only the beginning of partnerships with Hoop and Holler and the female student-athletes at the University of Houston. The micro-collective is looking to continue their relationships with athletes and build a fan base for the university’s teams.
For Blair, she’s looking forward to the future with Mike and Jennifer. “I’m excited to continue to grow and build a relationship with them because I know that we can do great work,” she said.AmericanFeaturedNILNIL collectiveNIL newsNIL women