A Game Changer: 5 Star Recruit Makur Maker Chooses Howard University over UCLA

What if a five-star recruit opted to play college basketball at a historically Black university?

For a longtime people have asked “what if the top black players took their talents to a HBCU?” But that is as far as the discussion would go. No top recruit would actually follow through with the decision to pass up the bright lights if UCLA, or playing for Coach K at Duke.

That “what if” discussion finally became reality Friday morning as Makur Maker, the No. 16 player in the ESPN 100, announced on Twitter that he would be attending Howard University in the fall.

“I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow,” Maker wrote. “I hope I inspire guys like Mikey Williams to join me on this journey. I’m committing to Howard U & coach Kenny Blakeney.”

Maker announced his final four college choices: Howard, UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis. For College hoops fans, you know UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis are powerhouses, and produce NBA talent year after year.

Howard, the lone HBCU on the list, is not known for its athletics. So when Maker announced that he would attend Howard, it was a true game changer.

Maker is the first five-star to commit to an HBCU since ESPN started ranking prospects in 2007.

Maker is a 6-foot-11 center with exceptional ballhandling skills, rare for a player his size. While there have been historically Black college and university (HBCU) teams with exceptional guards through the years, having a talented big man at that level is rare.

This decision isn’t one that sprung out of nowhere for Makur. Last year Maker and Joshua Christopher, the No. 11 player in the class, visited the campus during Howard’s homecoming. Maker and Christopher were met with performances by DaBaby, Juvenile and Kanye West as part of the homecoming weekend.

But Maker reassured the media that his decision had nothing to do with the presentation and star power. Rather it was the idea of being the first to start a trend and inspire other top recruits to attend HBCU.

Even if Howard didn’t get Maker or Christopher to commit, just getting them to consider the university was huge. Getting two of the nation’s best high school talents to pay an official visit to an HBCU is unheard-of, especially when major schools such as Kentucky and UCLA have so much to show with the tens of millions of dollars that their athletic programs pull in each year. Yet Maker and Christopher said their visit was not just for show.

“I would never waste anyone’s time,” said Christopher, who opted to attend Arizona State.

Obviously Maker wasn’t doing it for show as he’s committed.

“I think we’re starting a different culture with top recruits coming in to visit here and taking this seriously.”-Maker said

It will be interesting to see how Maker and Howard’s season goes, if there is one with the global pandemic. Maker may be the first top recruit to choose to attend a HBCU, but he might not be the first.

High school player Mikey Williams has been vocal since the George Floyd murder, about attending a HBCU. Williams is one of the highest rated kids in his class, even more so than what Maker is today. So it will be interesting to follow Williams journey to see if he follows in Maker’s footsteps.

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