Maybe Makur Maker’s decision will be the spark.
Could this climate possibly be the igniter of a wave of Historically Black College and Universities infiltrating the circles of AAU high school basketball elite?
When the 6-foot-11 Kenyan native out of Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix made the decision on Friday to take his talents to Howard University, joining a Bison team that only won four games last year, the Twittersphere lost it.
Some supported the decision.
“Congratulations Makur! You have not only made one of the best decisions of your life... you have changed HBCU athletics forever! Howard U is the greatest school on earth. You will be immensely empowered on day one. There is no other place quite like it on earth.”
And then there were others who just didn’t get it and probably lacked interest in even trying.
“Why tho? Going to a team that won’t even sniff the NCAA tourney smh,” one person tweeted.
“I get what you’re trying to do, but you’re not gonna prove anything to NBA scouts there,” tweeted another.
But sadly, @SpvritFN doesn’t seem to understand the fact that NBA scouts follow the talent. That’s why there are NBA scouts assigned to Asia, Europe, Australia and Africa to scope out global talent for the league.
But I digress.
Maker, the No. 16 recruit in the country according to the ESPN 100 class of 2020, will likely be a one-and-done at Howard next season. And while his decision could launch a movement, Andy Schwarz of The Professional Collegiate League, a group whose mission is to “enable athletes to benefit directly from their talent,” believes given the circumstances surrounding Maker and the programs he was considering, he was somewhat backed into a corner.
“This is great for Howard,” Schwarz said. “If I thought this was a harbinger of a future trend and broader than just Howard for HBCUs in general, then I’d might be more enthusiastic, but it’s a measured enthusiasm.”
Of the schools Maker had narrowed his choices down to, both Memphis and Kentucky have solidified their rosters for next season, and UCLA is currently going through a dogfight with the apparel brand Under Armour, and has a new Athletic Director. These variables could have contributed to Maker’s decision to choose Howard. And, according to Schwarz, the G League Select Team, a developmental league team associated with the G League, has already taken a guy of his height around 7-foot-2 (Maker is 6-11).
“I don’t know if his situation is unique but it’s certainly unusual,” Schwarz added. “Maybe the Gen-Z athlete is looking beyond who has the nicest facilities and the best TV contracts.”
Looking at monetary athletic budgets for Division I PWIs (predominately white institutions) in 2020, Maker’s decision is surely in a league of its own.
As the country comes to terms with its racist past, Mikey Williams, a top 3 prospect for the class of 2023 according to ESPN 100 ranking winked at the idea of playing for an HBCU last month.
“Going to an HBCU wouldn’t be too bad…”
With the NCAA’s timetable for a name, image and licensing proposal still looming, many Black athletes are finding their voice now.
If they can’t receive the financial compensation for their blood, sweat and tears, they want to deepen the pockets of institutions built by and for their community.
For example, imagine a school like Howard earning $11 million in revenue from its basketball program. This is what the University of Oregon’s men’s basketball team mustered up in 2019. Anything close to $11M would be a significant financial boost for a Howard basketball program that generated just $851,072 in 2018.
Recently, the interest in HBCUs on the part of the players is gaining steam, as five-star rising senior Trevor Keels landed three HBCU offers, and five-star rising junior Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, picked up four of his own.
This precisely is the moment.
But will it be like others? Will it just pass by?
“All it takes is one person to change history,” 10-time NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony said last month. “I think it’s a better chance of this new generation, this next generation, to go to a HBCU and be accepted and bring something different to a HBCU.”
Perhaps Markur is the difference Maker.