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Five-star Makur Maker picks Howard over blue bloods Kentucky and UCLA

Makur Maker, 19, is eligible for the NBA draft but committed to Howard. (Anthony Geathers/The Washington Post)

Five-star center Makur Maker from Phoenix’s Hillcrest Prep announced early Friday morning that he committed to Howard University.

Maker, who is No. 16 in the ESPN 100 recruiting rankings for the Class of 2020, chose the Bison despite holding scholarship offers from powerhouse programs such as Kentucky, Memphis and UCLA.

“I was the 1st to announce my visit to Howard & other started to dream ‘what if,’ ” Maker tweeted. “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.”

Maker, who at 19 is eligible to go directly to the NBA, declared for the draft in April, but it had been suggested that he would remove his name from consideration and attend college should he receive anything less than a first-round grade from scouts.

With the 6-foot-11 standout ranked 75th among draft-eligible players by ESPN, it’s no surprise that Maker is putting his hopes of joining cousin Thon Maker of the Detroit Pistons in the NBA on hold while he attempts to improve his standing by playing in college.

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Committed Howard U. Let’s get it!! ❤️💙

A post shared by Makur Maker (@makurmaker1) on

Despite a disappointing first season that included a home loss to NAIA program Washington Adventist, Blakeney appears to have the Bison headed in the right direction. In addition to signing Maker, Howard is set to host Notre Dame on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Blakeney recently spoke to The Washington Post about what makes Howard, which hasn’t participated in the NCAA tournament in almost 30 years, an attractive destination for elite prospects.

“There’s only one Howard, and that brand means and resonates with so many people around the country,” Blakeney said. “As a top 100 school [academically] in the most powerful city in the world, Howard is a sleeping giant that top student-athletes will appreciate and want to attend.”

While it remains to be seen whether Maker becoming the highest-ranked player in the modern era to commit to a historically black college is the start of a trend for elite prospects or a mere anomaly, the attention gained by Howard and HBCUs in general is undeniable.

Maker, who was born in Kenya and lived in Australia before moving to the United States, attended several high schools before Hillcrest Prep. According to ESPN, he averaged 14.7 points and 7.9 rebounds during the 2019 AAU season while playing for Adidas-sponsored Dream Vision.