Makur Maker's decision to go to Howard University to play basketball shocked the college basketball world. It marked the potential start of a new trend: five-star recruits choosing to play at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
And for former head coach and NBC Sports Washington basketball analyst Jimmy Patsos, it could spark a huge movement within college basketball.
"If one person can lead a revolution, one person can lead a movement, this could be the guy," Patsos said on Friday. "Why not him changing the landscape of college basketball?"
Patsos saw the abilities of Maker first-hand at Steph Curry's Select Camp. He says the 6-foot-11 player can do it all and, even before his monumental commitment to the Bison, had the tools to be a transcendent player within the sport.
"He does everything. Like, he could shoot the ball, he could handle the ball. He reminds me of a little bigger Luol Deng, who's also from [Africa]," Patsos said referring to Maker's birth country of Kenya.
"He's not just another player. He's a 6-11 guy that does it all. He's not Magic Johnson, he's not going to play the point, but he handles the ball well."
In Patsos' eyes, Maker has a bigger upside than Chet Holgrem - the No. 3 recruit of the 2021 class according to 247sports - who has yet to commit. Holgrem is another lanky center, whose skill set is similar to the new Bison player. Many regard Holgrem as another great high school prospect in the same conversation with the Kevin Durants of the world in years past.
Not only is Patsos high on Maker, he thinks he should be a top lottery pick... for this season... and is better than his cousin, Thon Maker, who plays for the Detroit Pistons.
"Basketball-wise, I had him rated as a lottery pick this year. I would have taken him in the lottery this year myself because I think the draft is a little down anyways," Patsos said.
On top of his on-the-court skills, Patsos is most intrigued at how Maker can become a star within the game. He's extremely personable, has high character and is outgoing. Especially being the highest-ranked recruit to play at an HBCU, that will be further amplified at Howard.
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Of all the HBCUs, Howard is the most prestigious. It boasts an incredible position in academics and a storied law school. While the Bison may have a modest basketball program even for HBCU standards, the school is the flagship.
"You say Howard, it's like saying Harvard," Patsos said. "I think it's a credit to the city and I think it says a lot about what Howard has done. Howard, academically, is fantastic but the rejuvenation of that area of Washington D.C., I think he had a fantastic visit. You know there is a lot going on in Washington right now, clearly. It's just a world-class city. But I'd say the most important reason was he's decided to put historically Black college on the map for basketball."
Second-year head coach Kenny Blakeney also deserves a ton of credit for navigating this recruitment of Maker. Spending time to cater to the rising college freshman, ranked No. 17 in the 2020 class, who traditionally would not even consider the school given other offers is not an easy task.
Often, it results in wasted time and resources where another recruiting target could be elsewhere. With Kentucky, UCLA, Memphis and others trying to lure the center, it further amplified his decision.
"You've got to give Kenny Blakeney an unbelievable amount of credit for hanging in there ... It would have been easy to say no, hung in there and showed the young man the possibilities of a fantastic time at Howard, even if it's only for a year," Patsos said.
The ripple effects of Maker going to Howard will not be seen immediately, Sure, the Bison will be favorites in the MEAC next year and if all goes well has a really good shot at not being in a play-in game for the NCAA Tournament. But Maker will likely go pro once eligible after he plays his first season and be a one-and-done. How he plays at Howard, how he's embraced and what Maker will do at the next level is how the recruiting game could change at HBCUs.
This is something that has never happened before. While many historically Black schools have a history of NBA players (Charles Oakley, Ben Wallace, Earl Monroe), no recruits had the hype of Maker.
"This could be revolutionary and changing the way players look at historically Black colleges, which is great," Patsos said. "Everyone knows where Howard is, who's been there, it has this fantastic reputation, as it should. But, this could change it as a landscape for kids hoping to play basketball there. And I applauded him. He answered the bell. The BLM movement is real and it's necessary."
"I can't wait to see what happens."
Coronavirus permitting, Maker will likely take his first steps on Howard's campus as a member of the program in August. Until that day, Blakeney will likely be sweating until he sees him show up for the first practice. And once Maker does, everyone will just watch and wait for how and if HBCU basketball programs will forever be changed.
"Is it a one-time thing? Or does it change everything?" Patsos said. "Everyone's going to be watching... This could be revolutionary,"
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