NCAA

Tommy Akingbesote's Terps commitment proof Mike Locksley's DMV-to-UMD movement is working

Tommy Akingbesote's Terps commitment proof Mike Locksley's DMV-to-UMD movement is working

The Maryland Terrapins football program heard good news on Wednesday evening when Flowers defensive tackle Tommy Akingbesote committed to head coach Mike Locksley's team.

Akingbesote is Maryland's 15th commitment for the 2021 class. The defensive lineman chose the Terps over Virginia Tech, among multiple other offers.

For Locksley, the defensive lineman's non-binding verbal committment is the latest example of the momentum he has built with the 2021 recruiting class. More impressive, that momentum has started at one key position.

Akingbesote is the fifth defensive lineman to commit to the Terps, joining a pair of Quince Orchard high school defensive linemen, Demeioun Robinson, an end, and Marcus Bradley, a tackle, and St. John's defensive tackle Taizse Johnson.

All three of those players are composite four-star recruits, according to the website 247sports.com. St. Frances' ZionAngelo Shockey is a three-star defensive end who has also committed to Maryland.

With the addition of Akingbesote, the five highest-rated recruits committed to the Terrapins for now all play on the defensive line.

But besides their position, these five recruits have something else in common: They're high-profile prospects from the DMV area and have chosen to stay home to play for Maryland rather than commit to an out-of-state powerhouse. That has not been the norm in College Park in recent recruiting cycles.

When Locksley was an assistant for the Terps from 1997 to 2002 and then again from 2012 to 2015, he played a major role in the team's recruiting process. During that time, Locksley helped convince some of the area's best players -- Stefon Diggs, Yannick Ngakoue, Damian Prince, Jesse Aniebonam -- to stay home and play for Maryland. 

Then-head coach Randy Edsall was fired in the middle of the 2015 season and Locksley was named the team's interim head coach. But Locksley wasn't retained following the 2015 season. Maryland's in-state recruiting began to suffer.

Two weeks before National Signing Day in 2016, four-star prospects Dwayne Haskins Jr. and Keandre Jones flipped from the Terps to Ohio State. Redskins rookie Chase Young, a five-star recruit from DeMatha and the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, who went to high school less than three miles from College Park, committed to the Buckeyes, too.

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Yes, then-coach D.J. Durkin put together a top-20 recruiting class in 2017 led by local four-star recruits like DeMatha running back Anthony McFarland and St. John's quarterback Kasim Hill. But the death of their fellow four-star recruit Jordan McNair, an offensive lineman from Bishop McNamara who passed away after collapsing during an offseason workout, led to Durkin's firing later that year. 

The 2018 class -- Durkin's last -- was ranked 28th overall, but even then five-star Eyabi Anoma from St. Frances chose Alabama over Maryland. Locksley had little chance to rebuild relationships with area players and coaches when he arrived from Alabama after helping the Crimson Tide win a national title in 2018 and reach the final again in 2019. He was able to flip five-star St. John's wide receiver Rakim Jarrett from LSU to Maryland, bringing in the program's highest-rated recruit since Prince in 2014. 

But Locksley has long said recruiting is a two-year game -- if not longer. Jarrett was a true shocker but an outlier for the 2020 class. It's been the 2021 recruiting class where Locksley has been able to truly make his mark. The Terps currently have the 11th ranked recruiting class in the country, according to 247 Sports, which is a major jump from their 31st ranking a year ago. 

While Locksley has made major strides keeping local players at home, there's still more work to be done.

The top two recruits from the state of Maryland, Dont'e Thornton and Landon Tengwall, do not appear to be heading to College Park. Tengwall has committed to Penn State, while Thornton is predicted to either land at Oregon or join Tengwall in Happy Valley, per 247Sports. But Robinson and Bradley are both in the top 10 in Maryland and the Terps are faring well in D.C., too, landing three of the District's top seven prospects.

However, quarterback Caleb Williams, D.C.'s top-rated prospect and the No. 1 QB in the entire 2021 class, remains uncommitted. While Maryland is in the Gonzaga passer's final three, Oklahoma appears to be the frontrunner, according to 247Sports.

When Locksley took over in December of 2018, he knew it would take a few years to turn around the program. The 2020 season is expected to once again be difficult for the Terrapins, who have the toughest schedule in the country, according to ESPN's FPI ranking.

But if the 2021 recruiting class is any indication about the future, Locksley is starting to keep the DMV's best players at home. If the Terps can establish a winning culture with this group of players and stay competitive in the brutal Big 10 East, future top DMV recruits will have no reason to leave home.

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Howard makes a massive jump in preseason KenPom rankings after Makur Maker commitment

Howard makes a massive jump in preseason KenPom rankings after Makur Maker commitment

The Howard men's basketball program was forever changed once 2020 five-star recruit Makur Maker announced his decision to play with the Bison next season

While this is a monumental step for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as a whole, this is also a really big deal for the current Howard program. 

Last season, Howard was 4-29 (1-15 MEAC). Only three of those wins were against Division I opponents. Literally they were one of the worst teams in college basketball.

But with Maker that will change things. Not only will they vault to title favorites in the MEAC, but their national profile and coverage will greatly improve. Already Ken Pomeroy, who is the developer behind one of the most trusted metrics in the sport (KenPom), has the Bison taking a huge step by simply adding the five-star center. 

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That meant Howard was going to be second-to-last in Division I for Pomeroy's preseason rankings this year. Going to 252nd gives them a 27% jump by the addition of a single player. 

That will be the largest jump by a player - ever, according to Pomeroy. 

Makur is a 6-foot-11 player that is projected to be a lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. His cousin, Thon Maker, plays for the Pistons in the NBA.

All signs point to Howard being the class of the MEAC next season, but overall the quality of the league as a whole will improve with Maker. 

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2020 five-star recruit Makur Maker commits to Howard

2020 five-star recruit Makur Maker commits to Howard

When five-star big man Makur Maker announced his final four schools Thursday and Howard University was on the list, it certainly raised some eyebrows. Now, it appears Howard has landed one of the biggest recruits in its history. 

Maker tweeted early Friday morning that he had committed to Howard and head coach Kenny Blakeney over UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis.

"I was the first to announce my visit to Howard & others started to dream “what if,'" Maker wrote. "I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow. I hope I inspire guys like Mikey Williams to join me on this journey. I am committing to Howard U & coach Kenny Blakeney."

Top high school recruits such as Maker and 2023 five-star Mikey Williams are the first to show real interest in playing their college ball at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Maker is the first of his caliber to make a commitment amid a worldwide movement against the systematic oppression of Black people. 

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Maker, the brother of Pistons big man Thon Maker, is the 18th-ranked 2020 recruit in the nation according to 247sports. The 6'11, 235-pound big man is known for his blend of size, mobility and perimeter skills at the center position.

Maker was born in Kenya and immigrated to Australia when he was one year old. He then played high school basketball at multiple schools in California before playing his final season at Hillcrest Prep Academy in Phoenix, AZ. 

Maker will join a program in need of a boost in talent. Howard went 4-29 last season and will surely improve with their newest addition. But perhaps Maker's decision will have a bigger impact on college basketball moving forward. As top recruits begin to consider avenues outside the traditional powerhouse programs, the game's landscape could look a lot different in a few years.

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