Eli Boettger | @boettger_eli | 07/03/20
This is the “huge get” of all “huge gets.”
Early Friday morning, five-star 2020 recruit Makur Maker announced his commitment to Howard over UCLA, Kentucky and others.
Maker, who 24/7Sports has ranked 17th nationally in its 2020 recruiting list, becomes the highest-rated historically Black college or university (HBCU) commit in the modern era.
“I was the first to announce my visit to Howard & other started to dream ‘what if’. I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow,” Maker tweeted early Friday morning.
Maker’s college choice can’t be understated. The potential lottery pick is headed to a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1992 in a conference that has never had an at-large March Madness bid. The Bison play in one of the smallest gyms in America in Burr Arena, a 2,700-seat facility located about three miles northeast of the White House in Washington, D.C.
On paper, Howard’s massive commit checks out as possibly the most unlikely recruiting pickup in modern history. Prior to landing Maker, Howard’s highest-rated commit ever was Tyreak Johnson, a 3-star recruit ranked 313th overall out of the class of 2009.
Howard coach Kenny Blakeney told ESPN just recently about the importance of landing these high-caliber recruits when the opportunity presents itself: “Wherever a five-star lands, we can’t mess this up. If we mess it up, we may not have another opportunity to be able to do it.”
Maker isn’t the first superstar prospect to express his interest in committing to an HBCU school this year. Joshua Christopher, who is another 2020 five-star recruit, took an official visit to Howard before eventually committing to Arizona State.
Wyoming transfer Trace Young is another player who followed through with his HBCU aspirations this spring, committing to Alabama State shortly after former NBA vet Mo Williams was named head coach of the Hornets. Young said at the time of his transfer that he would only consider HBCUs.
In addition to Maker, 2023 recruit Mikey Williams has also expressed serious consideration in committing to an HBCU. Williams already has offers from Kansas, UCLA and other big programs, but sparked massive HBCU interest last month after sharing on social media that “going to an HBCU wouldn’t be too bad.”
Shortly after his post went live, Williams picked up offers from several HBCUs, including Howard, Alabama State, North Carolina Central, and others.
On Friday, Williams showed his support for Maker’s decision:
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Howard University had a men’s basketball recruiting budget of $163,627 in 2018, compared to Kentucky’s $2,479,225, which was one of Maker’s top suitors. Howard made $1,338,284 in men’s basketball revenue in 2018 while Kentucky made $38,829,651.
This is just an example of the imbalance and uphill climb that HBCU programs face in Division-I competition. The MEAC and SWAC, NCAA’s primary HBCU conferences, have the tightest budgets and revenues in all of college basketball. Both conferences had less than $1.2 million in expenses in 2018 while each of the high-major conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten Pac-12 and SEC) averaged better than $7.5 million per program.
With growing awareness around social and racial issues in the United States, several student-athletes have taken a stand and made their voice heard. Makur Maker, Mikey Williams and Trace Young will hope to begin the wave of HBCU athletic empowerment.
Eli Boettger is a college basketball writer and founder of HeatCheckCBB.com. He has previously worked for Sporting News, DAZN and USA TODAY SMG.
Boettger’s content has been featured by Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, FiveThirtyEight, Yahoo Sports, Athletic Director University, Washington Post, Illinois Law Review and Notre Dame Law Review, among other publications. Boettger is also a current USBWA member and Rockin’ 25 voter.