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Makur Maker’s brief stay at Howard could be over with declaration for NBA draft

Makur Maker, a 6-foot-11 center, reportedly declared for the 2021 NBA draft but will not hire an agent, leaving open the possibility for a return to Howard for his sophomore season. (Gregory Payan/AP)

Former five-star center Makur Maker was hailed as a game-changer when he committed to Howard over UCLA and Kentucky in July. After playing just two games for the Bison, Maker, the highest-rated recruit to sign with a historically Black college or university, reportedly has declared for the NBA draft.

Maker, the No. 16 prospect in last year’s ESPN 100 recruiting rankings, told The Washington Post recently that he doesn’t plan to hire an agent, a decision that could allow him to return to Howard for his sophomore year. He has until July 19 to withdraw from draft consideration and preserve his college eligibility.

Maker signed with Howard over a host of top programs last summer, a decision that made national headlines and inspired think pieces about how young athletes could alter the sport. At 19, he was eligible to pursue an NBA career out of high school, but with his draft prospects uncertain, he removed his name from NBA consideration and announced his plans to attend Howard.

At 6-foot-11, Maker had shown the ability to stretch the floor, but he only appeared in two games for the Bison, averaging 11.5 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists as he struggled through a groin injury suffered during a preseason practice. Howard lost those two games to open its season and mustered a 1-4 record before Maker announced that he tested positive for the coronavirus in January. The university canceled the rest of its season because of coronavirus issues the following month.

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Maker has since trained in the Los Angeles area with former NBA guard Darren Collison, preparing for the pro game. Despite limited appearances, he told The Washington Post this month that he benefited from competitive practices and that Howard coaches were “pushing me and showing me what it is to play low and be in a defensive stance and being patient and spacing and timing when I’m on the floor.”

Collison sees Maker as a stretch four or five in the NBA because of his shooting ability, but he has been impressed by the 20-year-old’s ballhandling and passing. Maker, who was born in Kenya and raised in Australia, is the cousin of NBA center Thon Maker.

“I’m not comparing him or saying that he’s on the same level as these players but guys like [Anthony Davis] and LaMarcus Aldridge have so much influence at those positions and impact because of their ability to stretch the defense out [and] make it hard for any guard or any big to defend the rim,” Collison said. “I didn’t know what to expect because he didn’t play much in college, but I was blown away when I saw him in person. For one, I didn’t know that he could shoot. I didn’t know he could put the ball on the floor as well as he does, and I didn’t know how impressive of a person that he is.”

Howard lost guard Nojel Eastern, a Purdue transfer who opted out of the season to train for the NBA, in early January. Coach Kenneth Blakeney, who knew of Maker’s NBA aspirations when he committed, said the freshman will go to the NBA combine in June and conduct individual workouts in July.

“We would love to have him back, but from day one it’s always been clear that he wants to be an NBA player. We understand and support Makur as he does his due diligence in terms of exploring his NBA options,” Blakeney said. “In the meantime, we are going to continue to prepare the same way whether he’s here or not. … He understands our system. He understands our players and how we work, so if he’s here he can jump right back in.”

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