- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2020

Howard University has scored a recruiting coup.

Prized five-star recruit and Hillcrest Prep (Arizona) center Makur Maker shocked college basketball and recruiting circles by committing to the D.C. school early Friday.

The 6-foot-11, 235-pound center is ranked 16th in ESPN’s Class of 2020 and is one of only 11 players in the top 100 who were still uncommitted. He is ranked 17th in 247Sports’ rankings.

Maker is the highest-ranked recruit to commit to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) since ESPN began its recruiting database in 2007.

“I was the 1st to announce my visit to Howard & other started to dream ‘what if,’” Maker tweeted. “I need to hope I inspire guys like Mikey Williams to join me on this journey. I am committing to Howard U & coach Kenny Blakeney #MakerMob”

College basketball experts believe the commitment may start a movement for more top-ranked recruits to choose HBCUs.

Mikey Williams is a 6-foot-1 five-star shooting guard from California, and ESPN’s third-rated recruit in the Class of 2023. Williams has also shown interest in Howard.

Maker chose Howard over college blue bloods Kentucky, UCLA and Memphis.

Maker previously entered his name into this year’s NBA draft. He is ranked as the 75th best NBA prospect by ESPN. He reportedly may stay in the draft if it’s expected that he’ll be a first-round pick.

According to 247Sports’ scouting report, Maker has “very good size for a post with decent length and tremendous mobility. Extremely unique post prospect with legitimate perimeter skills. Plays with a high motor and has elite end-to-end speed for his size. Smooth stroke with range to three. Handles the ball very well for position.”

Maker visited Howard in the fall and was impressed with the D.C. school, Maker’s guardian Ed Smith told ESPN recently.

“A lot of people are comfortable with familiarity,” Smith told ESPN. “Kids could say, ‘I would feel welcome that I’m not just an athlete — I’m part of a community. On the visit at Howard, that was the main difference. Just for me on the outside looking in, he’s part of the fabric. You’re not just the athlete or the Black athlete.”

Maker is the cousin of Detroit Pistons forward Thon Maker. Maker was born in Kenya and moved to Australia when he was a year old. He moved to California in 2015 and attended several high schools before settling at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, Arizona.

Per NCAA rules, Blakeney and Howard cannot comment on the commitment until Maker signs a national letter of intent in the fall.

“Wherever a five-star lands, we can’t mess it up,” Blakeney told ESPN last fall. “If we mess it up, we may not have another opportunity to be able to do it.”

Howard went 4-29 overall and 1-15 in the MEAC last year in Blakeney’s first season at the school. The Bison haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in nearly 30 years.

• Kevin Leitzell can be reached at kleitzell@washingtontimes.com.

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