In the wee hours of the morning — on the eve of America’s birthday — a teenager of Kenyan-Australian descent changed the landscape of the basketball world with a single social media post.
Makur Maker, a five-star high school basketball recruit, announced early Friday that he would play college hoops at Howard University.
It wasn’t that he chose Howard, necessarily. It wasn’t that he committed to Howard over bluebloods UCLA, Kentucky, and Memphis.
It was the reason Maker explained why Howard was the choice.
“I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow,” he wrote on Twitter at 3:30 a.m.
Maker wasn’t this great prep high school athlete who happened to come from a lineage of HBCU graduates that made his decision a relatively reasonable one.
His parents, born in Kenya, did not attend an HBCU. Neither did any of his six brothers and one sister. Not even older cousins, Thon and Matur Maker, who both play professional basketball in the United States.
Maker arrived in America just five years ago and has attended four different high schools since. All of them in either California or Arizona — each more than 2,000 miles away from Howard’s campus in Washington, D.C.
It makes little sense that this kid, with that background, in a climate where talents such as Maker’s are destined to be the centerpiece of rosters in Durham, North Carolina, Lexington, Kentucky or East Lansing, Michigan would ultimately end up at a school that hadn’t been in the NCAA Tournament in 28 years.
But that’s what makes the choice by Maker so powerful. A 17-year-old kid not born of this country quickly developing an appreciation for historically black colleges and what the institutions mean to Black people only confirms to the rest of America what those tethered to those schools have always known.
Black institutions of higher learning aren’t inferior. Black schools are to be respected. Black traditions and culture are just as legitimate as the historically white ones that are revered.
Maker spoke of being part of a movement to encourage the very best Black high school athletes to give HBCUs a serious, not token looks as so often has been the case. This motivation for Maker derives in a time where there is a global awakening surrounding Black causes and the Black Lives Matter movement. Black athletes, in particular, are wielding their power to demand and create substantive change inside and outside the white lines of play.
Multimillion-dollar coaches are now at the mercy of Black athletes. Entities that once were under the impression they controlled the ways in which Black people operated are suddenly being guided by Black athletes.
Also not lost is that Maker verbally agreeing to sign with Howard dispels the notion that HBCUs needed to have the cache, the notoriety, the grand facilities, or the ESPN national television Big Monday interest to attract the high-level AAU players.
Maker made a statement that an athlete didn’t need to wear the jersey of a Power 5 school to be seen by the public or pro scouts. The media, the attention, will follow Maker and any other athlete of similar caliber simply because they exist.
Maker to Howard isn’t a win for Howard. It is a win for every single HBCU in the country. Celebrations are occurring by black college alums. Though each unique in their own ways, HBCUs are one big family. Every victory in competition or in recruiting is a victory for the collective. When one eats, so does the rest by proxy. Howard basketball ultimately is the beneficiary of all this. But so are the 107 schools, too.