Makur Maker, cousin of Detroit Pistons center Thon Maker, recently committed to play for the Howard men's basketball team. ESPN’s 16th-ranked recruit selected Howard over powerhouse programs such as Kentucky, Memphis and UCLA.
Howard, established in 1867, is a historically Black university competing in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which is composed of 11 HBCUs.
Traditionally, top recruits have chosen programs in Power 5 conferences — such as North Carolina — to complete their college careers. These schools typically allocate more money to their selective athletic programs and provide more exposure for players looking to play in the NBA.
On July 3, Maker tweeted about his decision to commit to Howard. He also clarified that he would provide a more detailed explanation on ESPN on July 9, citing the fact that it is South Sudan Independence Day — Maker's parents are from South Sudan.
“I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow,” Maker wrote on Twitter.
Coming from Phoenix, Arizona, Maker is a 6-foot-11 center ranked as the best player in his state. He is a five-star recruit and scouted as a player who has the ability to shoot three-point shots and handle the ball in the perimeter to complement his abilities in the post.
Maker's decision could make him a trailblazer during his college basketball tenure. Beyond simply raising his own draft stock, his decision could motivate others to consider making commitments to HBCUs.
There have been many discussions over the last few years about whether Black student-athletes should commit themselves to HBCUs. Most notably, The Atlantic writer Jemele Hill suggested in 2019 that future college athletes should look into attending historically Black institutions. Often times, the argument against doing so is one of resources and notoriety.
What may help Maker in his mission are the recent maneuvers that athletes have used as alternatives to college basketball.
Notable prospects such as LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton spent this past college basketball season overseas, rather than in the NCAA. Jalen Green, who was ranked No. 1 on the ESPN 100 list for the class of 2020, chose to play in the NBA G League for a year before making the jump to the NBA. Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix, both five-star recruits, are making the same transition. While it is clear that there are several prospects looking to forgo the traditional college basketball route, Maker is doing so with a specific goal in mind.
The last player to get drafted into the NBA from an HBCU was Kyle O’Quinn in 2012, coming from Norfolk State, another MEAC school. Other notable players who have reached the NBA from historically Black colleges include Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Sam Jones, Ben Wallace and Charles Oakley. Reed, Monroe and Jones are all members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Maker’s decision to attend Howard could pioneer a movement for future college basketball recruits, or it could be an anomaly. With the way recruitment is trending, however, the former seems to be more than possible, with highly elite prospects such as Mikey Williams showing interest in attending an HBCU. Maker’s level of success at Howard will likely dictate where this movement goes.