ROUNDBALL DAILY

BLM movement reaches mid-major Howard University with commitment from Makur Maker, a 5-star recruit who was wooed by several power schools

By: Joel Alderman

As the call for social changes and the movement Black Lives Matter continues, a decision was reached by a 5-star recruit as to where he will take his sought-after talents. Makur Maker, all 6-feet 11 inches and 235 pounds of him, is bypassing Kentucky, Memphis, UCLA, Alabama, Oregon, USC, and more, who were in the chase.

But that’s only part of the story. The rest of it is the identity of the lucky program where he says he will be going. It is only a mid-major, Howard University, where on July 4th he committed to play. And it was not because of basketball.

An HBCU school

Howard is one of what are known as the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. and Maker wants to play there because “I hope I inspire guys like Mikey Williams (only a rising junior in high school but already another 5-star from California) to join me on this journey. I am committing to Howard U & coach Kenny Blakeney #MakerMob.”
Williams tweeted back. “On your side my boy. Let’s shock the world!!!”

There is also a Howard College in Texas, and it has a pretty good basketball program. But this one is located in Washington, D.C., less than two miles from the White House. It is a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, made up entirely of HBCUs and has about 10,000 students.

The Bison went a disastrous 4-29 last season, Blakeney’s first as coach. He played four seasons at Duke starting in 1991 and is a former captain of the Blue Devils. Before taking the reins at Howard he was an assistant coach at Harvard under Tommy Amaker, who preceded him at Duke, and at Columbia.

Maker is equally comfortable shooting 3-pointers or playing in the post. He originally intended to enter the NBA Draft, which he declared for on April 25th after the league granted a waiver because he was two credits shy of a high school diploma.

Maker wants to make history and lead the way

But with the coronavirus rampant the opportunities for scouts to evaluate new talent have been scarce and he is not projected as a first-round choice in the coming draft. Therefore, Maker believes going to college, even a low profile one like Howard, will improve his stock. In the process, he is set to make history and lead the way for other top prospects who previously may not have considered an HBCU school.

The five-star recruit is ranked 16th in the country by ESPN and is one of the highest, if not THE highest ever to commit to a Historically Black College or University. His choice of Howard was a shocking one to the college hoop world. His brother is already in the NBA, Thon Maker of the Detroit Pistons, Coach Blakeney hopes Maker’s decision opens the door for other prospects to go the HBCU route. In addition to Maker and possibly Mikey Williams, another who may play for the Bison is Bronny James, son of LeBron James.

Highlight of Makur’s coming season (if there if one of course) will be the game at Howard next January 18th, Martin Luther King Day, when Notre Dame plays for the first time on a Mid-Major court. Mike Bray, coach of the Irish, said the visit would provide “an incredibly educational experience for our student-athletes, coaches, support staff and university.”
Blackeney and Brey both played at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland. Blackeney said “Coach Mike Brey and I are brothers. We were both mentored by Coach Morgan Wooten, who considered himself first a teacher. We understand that this game is bigger than both universities, and I feel that we have a social and civic responsibility to engage our programs in celebrating Dr. King’s birthday.”

Blakeney came to Howard from the Ivy League, He was an assistant coach to fellow Duke starTommy Amaker at Harvard from 2007 to 2012 and also assisted at Columbia for the 2018-19 season.

A long way to Howard

Maker will be taking a circuitous route to Howard. He was born in Kenya and his family moved to Perth, Australia, when he was a year old.

Later they moved to North America and ended in California in 2015. He played as a high school freshman at Chaminade Prep in West Hills. After attending a school in Canada, he returned to Southern California as the family took up residence in Yorba Linda, in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. He played at Lutheran High School in Orange, then Pacific Academy, a private school in Irvine. From there he transferred to Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix AZ.

In the unlikely event he is projected as a high first round pick, he has until Aug. 17 to decide whether to stay in the NBA draft, which will be held in October.

South Sudan Independence Day

Maker said he will explain more about his commitment to Howard on Thursday, July 9th on ESPN. It is a day of great importance to him, South Sudan Independence Day, a national holiday in the Republic. It gained independence in 2011 after years of a costly civil war and is one of the world’s youngest nations. Although Maker only lived there as an infant, he pays tribute to his heritage.

“I was the first to announce my visit to Howard and others started to dream ‘what if,’” he posted on Twitter June 30th. “I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow.”

A head on his shoulders and a deep feeling for social issues. Not bad for a 19-year old who won’t turn 20 until November. By then maybe, just maybe, there will be a basketball season at Howard for him to make another kind of impression.

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