Mid-major Basketball: 5 programs to watch for 2020-21 season by Tim Edmonds
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 18: Makur Maker #21 of Team Jimma looks on against Team Zion during the SLAM Summer Classic 2019 at Dyckman Park on August 18, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Five-star NCAA Basketball prospect Makur Maker has made the decision to play for the Howard Bison of the MEAC.
From start to finish, the NCAA Basketball recruiting saga of Makur Maker is going to go down as one of the most unique situations of the modern-day time. It essentially went from likely not going to college at all to a program few thought would ever actually occur.
A year ago, Maker, the cousin of current NBA forward Thon Maker, released a top-10 list that including the usual heavyweights, along with the Howard Bison. Not much was made of it, although eyes were raised when he actually took a visit to the program in the Fall. Still, all recruiting experts believed that the five-star prospect would never pick a team, instead opting to play overseas.
That option, of course, changed in the early Spring, when the Covid-19 pandemic just about shut everything down all over the world, including sports leagues. It’s starting to kick back up again overseas but most don’t have fans and the future financial impact has yet to be seen. With that option now off the table, Maker could’ve gone to the G League Select Team, a new initiative that features some former five-star commits and international big man Kai Sotto.
But the college route was always available, even if it was for just one year. And a few programs seemed to be in the running, including UCLA and Kentucky. Yet Howard seemed to be in the picture, thanks to a renewed interest in HBCUs, in large part due to the outside social justice unrest. Another five-star prospect in Mikey Williams has recently hinted at possibly going that route as well. But if he does, he’ll be the second to do so;
Easily, this is the highest-rated recruit ever to join both the Howard Bison and MEAC Basketball altogehter. It’s another win for head coach Kenny Blakeney, who is in his second year with the program, coming off a 4-29 overall record. But he returns four starters, as well as having a big-time incoming recruiting class.
Of course, Maker is now the star of the team and will add exposure to the program that they’ve never had. And the stars really had to align for this pairing to occur. Quite frankly, it helped that the prospect in question had largely written off going to college for months. That makes this a clear one-year partnership if the season even happens. There will be some who question the decision and ask if there’s a negative side to this but considering that Anthony Edwards (Georgia) and James Wiseman (Memphis) didn’t have the greatest campaigns but are still projected top-5 NBA Draft picks, Maker’s future pro prospects shouldn’t be hurt by playing in the MEAC.
There certainly will be pressure on Coach Blakeney and the Bison to have a big season and show that players can come to HBCUs and still have a national spotlight. But that won’t happen if Howard has another season under .500 and not in the running for a MEAC title. What will help is Maker’s desire to pave a path for future prospects to want to play for what’s normally considered “lower-level” leagues and programs. If he plays up to his potential, Howard could make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1992.
Not many thought that Makur Maker would even end up playing NCAA Basketball and even fewer thought that Howard would be the ultimate landing spot. This is one of the biggest recruiting upsets ever, that could be the start of a domino effect for future prospects. Now, we’re all going to be interested in the non-conference schedule for the Bison this upcoming season.
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