Five-star prospect Makur Maker shakes things up with commitment to Howard

Makur Maker

Five-star high school recruit Makur Maker sent a jolt through the college basketball world early Friday morning by announcing his commitment to Howard University, pioneering the much-discussed movement of having elite high school hoopers commit to historically black colleges and universities, also known as HBCUs.

Maker, who visited Howard last fall, spurned the likes of UCLA, Kentucky, and Memphis for the Bison, who’s basketball program has arguably never housed a talent like Maker, which is something head coach Kenny Blakeney recognizes.

“Wherever a five-star lands, we can’t mess it up,” Blakeney said. “If we mess it up, we may not have another opportunity to be able to do it.”

ESPN’s current recruiting database has Maker ranked as the No. 16 player in the Class of 2020, making him the highest-ranked prospect to commit to an HBCU since they started chronicling high school hoopers rankings in 2007.

Despite the fact that Makur entered his name in the NBA Draft, he’s unlikely to follow through on his entry if he isn’t a first-round pick and also due to the fact that he’s been unable to work out for teams due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the G-Leauge presents itself as a burgeoning option, Maker isn’t too interested in taking that route. 

The NBA G League reached out and approached my coach, but if it’s not the NBA then I’m going to go to college because I’m young and still want to learn more.”

If (when?), Maker gets drafted into the NBA, he’ll be the first player hailing from an HBCU to make it to the Association since Kyle O’Quinn, who was drafted out of Norfolk State in 2012.

Maker’s brother, Thon, who currently plays in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons, was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2016.

With Maker’s groundbreaking decision and HBCUs ramping up their level of aggression in recruiting top-flight prospects from the Class of 2021 and 2022 respectively, hopefully, there won’t be such a sizable time gap between when Maker is drafted and the next HBCU star hears their name called in the draft.

Class of 2023 combo guard Mikey Williams, who is currently ranked at No. 3 by ESPN but considered by many to be the best player in his grade, has also hinted that he’s strongly considering, if not already heavily leaning towards committing to an HBCU.

Maker’s commitment to Howard is a gigantic win for HBCUs. Anything that can bolster their current athletic profile fits snug in the “W” column right now.

We’re talking about a basketball program that went 4-29 last season, including 1-15 in their conference. Out of the 353 D-1 basketball teams last season, they weren’t far from being the worst. Maker will be the chief in their hoops kingdom that alters their fortunes.

As for Maker himself, both he and other young men such as Williams recognize the amount of influence they wield.

It would’ve been easy for Maker to shack up on UCLA’s campus for a year or two and lead some solid Bruin teams to a couple of NCAA Tournament appearances before dancing off to the NBA, but this is about the culture.

This is a seizing of the moment, and as a 25-year-old black man, I’m ecstatic that these kids recognize the efforts it’s going to take on their parts to make a cultural shift.

If Maker’s talents are truly NBA-level, it doesn’t matter where he’s hooping at, he’ll get there. Of course, it would’ve been sexier to see him putting up big numbers at UCLA or Kentucky, but right now in America it’s about change, and there’s nothing meant to be sexy about the modifications we’re trying to make. I hope Maker understands this.

Many of his games won’t be on national television, he won’t be traveling to games as comfortably as his cohorts and Howard’s home court, Burr Gymnasium, only seats 2,700, which obviously falls well short of the FedEx Forum or Rupp Arena.

Now the hope is that we can sprinkle in some other top-tier recruits in the time between Maker’s commitment and when Williams announces what college he’ll be lacing them up for. Please don’t let Maker be a one-off, things are culturally too much bigger than basketball right now for that to be the case.

Canadian DJ KAYTRANDA has a song with Teedra Moses on his newest album Bubba, called Culture, and the chorus goes as follows: “This is not a vibe, it’s the culture, n****.” 

I hope Makur Maker and his decision allows not only these young men but everyone else that’s fascinated with the basketball world to understand that. This news came as a surprise, but I look forward to the day when it’s astounding that a top recruit didn’t commit to an HBCU.

Hopefully, we reach that point soon.


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