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HBCUs Need More than Makur Maker, They Need NBA Money Makers, Too

Deadspin logo Deadspin 7/6/2020 Rob Parker
a person in a blue shirt: Top recruit Makur Maker committed to Howard University last week. © Image: AP (AP) Top recruit Makur Maker committed to Howard University last week.

The only thing Historically Black Colleges and Universities need more than a five-star basketball recruit like Makur Maker is cash.

Cheddar. Jack. Scratch. Bread. A bag. Whatever you want to call it.

For sure, Maker stunned the college basketball world on Friday. The stud big man passed up scholarships from UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis to instead sign with Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Maker — who was the nation’s 16th-ranked recruit, according to ESPN — became the highest-ranked college basketball prospect to commit to an HBCU since the ESPN recruiting database started in 2007.

Now, there’s word that LeBron James’ son, Bronny, could be headed to an HBCU, too. According to a report, an HBCU could be considered the favorite over Duke, which has long been thought of as Bronny’s landing spot after high school.

This is all great news for the HBCUs. For decades, the top Black recruits wouldn’t even consider going to a non-elite basketball school. So much so that HBCUs didn’t even bother to recruit these types of top-notch athletes.

But that has all changed with the social justice movement going on in this country. On the tragic heels of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a white cop in Minneapolis, there’s a renewed Black pride and spirit. You see it in the protest in the streets. Best of all, you also see changes in attitudes on college campuses and in Corporate America throughout these United States.

Still, HBCUs need more than just better players to matter again.

These schools need funds to get up to speed, to be on equal footing with some of the big-time college basketball factories.

Enter current star professional athletes with gobs of money, some they have to donate for tax purposes.

Players need to start committing dollars to these schools. It only makes sense for Black people to invest in Black people. If others want to chip in, that’s good, too.

But we have to step up first after decades of neglect of our own. And the argument “we didn’t go to these schools,” is a lame excuse.

Golden State star Steph Curry is a perfect example. Despite not being an alumnus, he did Howard a solid last year, committing money to fund the men’s and women’s golf teams for the next six years. The amount of the bill wasn’t revealed, but it was estimated to be several million.

This is what needs to be done.

We’ve seen Black athletes give back to their predominantly white institutions. We get it. People feel closer to donating to a place they are familiar with and helped nurture them during their collegiate years.

Often, however, it’s just a case of the rich getting richer.

In 2015, Draymond Green donated $3.1 million to his alma mater Michigan State. A wonderful gesture.

Imagine if that money went to Norfolk State, Hampton or one of the current 101 HBCUs in this country. Even if Green split the pot, half to the school he attended and the other to a much-needed Black institution.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the five institutions with the largest endowments in 2017 were Harvard, Yale, University of Texas System, Stanford and Princeton.

Many schools have plenty of cake. HBCUs, though, need the dough, especially when it comes to athletics.

Let’s not forget that some Hall of Fame professional athletes came from these schools, including the NFLers Jerry Rice, Shannon Sharpe and Michael Strahan. In the NBA, the Knicks HOFer Willis Reed played at an HBCU.

Currently in the NBA, the 76ers Robert Covington and the Knicks’ Kyle O’Quinn played for Black colleges.

Maker could be next.

The cousin of Detroit Pistons forward Thon Maker, Makur was born in Kenya before moving to Australia. In 2015, he moved to California. Last spring and summer, with Dream Vision on the Adidas circuit, Makur Maker averaged 14.7 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting a ridiculous 73 percent from two-point range.

Indeed, many coveted his ability. Maker made a conscious choice, not an easy one.

“I was the first to announce my visit to Howard & other started to dream ‘what if,”’ Maker wrote on Twitter. “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.”

With Maker committed to the cause, hopefully star Black athletes will commit dollars for the cause, too.


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