Makur Maker became the highest ranked basketball recruit to sign with an HBCU since 2007

John Jones via Getty Images

As the 4th of July marked a celebratory day of respite from the monotony we've grown accustomed to during the Covid-19 pandemic, the world of men's College Basketball was watching the fallout from the fireworks that Makur Maker set off on the eve of the national holiday.

On July 3, Maker, the nation's 18th ranked recruiting prospect (Rivals.com) verbally committed to the HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) Howard University in Washington, D.C.—instead of a traditional basketball powerhouse such as UCLA or Kentucky. Maker will be the highest ranked basketball recruit, and only five star recruit, to sign on with an HBCU since the recruiting database was created by ESPN in 2007.

While Maker isn't the only top recruit in recent time to discuss playing for an HBCU, he is the only one that has actually gone as far as to commit to one. Trace Young was a three star recruit coming out of high school and played for Wyoming University his freshman year. Young decided to transfer to an HBCU, and in May announced he would be transferring to Alabama State University, one of six HBCU's he narrowed his choices down to.


Traditionally, since the inception of the one and done rule in 2006, we have seen top high school recruits attend power conference programs led by high profile coaches that are more synonymous with their schools' identity than any of its players. Since players are required to be 19 years old and a year removed from their high school graduation date in order to be draft eligible for the NBA, American high school prospects have typically taken the route of playing for the colleges that offered high visibility and exposure to improve their draft stock.

This process has kept schools like Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan State flush with the nation's top talent for decades as they have the bravado of being home to coaching icons with NBA connections the likes of Mike Kryzyewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Tom Izzo, and the notorious John Calipari. Calipari was one of the pioneers in one and done recruiting as he learned to leverage it as a recruiting tactic by selling Kentucky as a one year boot camp to prepare top prospects for the NBA. While Calipari didn't earn a lot of friends or supporters from this approach, it would be one that every major program would have to learn to adopt in order to continue landing top recruits.

John Calipari John Calipari

Maker's choice to commit to an HBCU shows yet another path for top basketball recruits to take now to circumvent the still standing one and done rule. By expanding the developmental G-League to allow for high school seniors to choose to play and get paid upon graduating, shows an understanding that some of these athletes are ready to compete at the NBA level and that playing for a college for one season isn't in their best interest. Other players have gone overseas to play professionally where they can earn more than what they would make in the G-League and also get to play against an increasingly talented number of leagues across the world before getting to the NBA.

As long as the one and done rule stays in place, or some iteration of it, the best basketball recruits will still play somewhere and I still believe that will largely be at the collegiate level for many of the same programs we've grown accustomed to seeing in March. But if Maker becomes the first in a new line of top recruits wanting to represent HBCUs, it could open up a new wave of power programs in the college sports landscape.

One of the great things about the coverage that college sports brings to colleges and universities is learning about their history and some of the great things that the school and its alumni have accomplished. There are great stories to be told from all of these institutions and it would be even better if more schools were able to be highlighted. Unfortunately, sports provide the biggest platform for that level of exposure and HBCUs have not been able to recruit top players because their programs have been able to compete and the exposure would be too small.

But if Maker's decision can affect someone like Mikey Williams who is the top recruit in the 2023 high school class to attend an HBCU, then we can start to talk about the logistics of increasing Burr Gymnasium's seating capacity by 15,000 seats overnight.

Mikey Williams Is The GOAT 9th Grader!! OFFICIAL FRESHMAN YEAR MIXTAPE! www.youtube.com


It would be great to get more representation from historically black colleges and universities in this country. As we talk more about social injustices and the need to fix certain things societally, college campuses across the country have always been a breeding ground for progressive thought and enacting change. In a time where racial injustice has been trending worldwide it seems as though student athletes have begun to understand that they hold more power than what they've been led to believe all these years, and that they can enact the changes they want to see with their actions.

The NBA has been one of the more progressive leagues in American sports in terms of looking outside of the U.S. borders for its talent. By embracing the global market the NBA has gained fans and viewers overseas, and has resulted in talent from all over the world being represented on NBA rosters today. The aforementioned expansion of the NBA run G-League shows that they're open to players taking alternative routes to get to the NBA level. HBCUs represent the same path to the professional level as Kentucky or Duke but the difference for black high school athletes is what it could mean for them to represent a school that celebrates black culture and that the opportunity to be stewards of a new era that can see HBCUs continue to grow in size and influence. Let's face it, if Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish had committed to Morehouse rather than Duke, we all would've tuned in just the same to witness the spectacle.

Only time will tell if more black athletes will choose HBCUs to play out their collegiate careers before heading to the pro ranks. But as the nation continues the conversation surrounding systemic racism, this opportunity for high profile athletes to shed light on black culture serves as an interesting mechanism to add to the Black Lives Matter Movement by mobilizing and empowering new voices to be heard from the generation that will be tasked with changing the narrative of a nation.

DMX on the Madison Square Garden marquee

Madison Square Garden

For many managers, their playoff prospects are dark and hot as hell heading into the final week of the fantasy basketball regular season.

But before you can compete to be grand champ, you need to stop, drop, shut your duds down and open up the waiver wire for your last gasp this regular season. Here are some names you should be looking for to give you that push you need.

Rest in peace, DMX.

Booms

Kyle Anderson Forward Memphis Grizzlies

The former UCLA star might have taken the tale of the tortoise and the hare a little too seriously, but the "slow and steady" mantra has given him a successful NBA career and impressive fantasy numbers. For the past week, Slow Mo has averaged 16.3 points on 48.9 percent shooting, seven rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.3 made threes, two steals and one turnover a game.

Anderson has been a consistent contributor throughout the season and it's tough to see his numbers take a hit even when Jaren Jackson Jr. returns at the end of the month. If you haven't rostered him yet, it would be a huge mistake.

Jalen McDaniels Forward/Center Charlotte Hornets

Staying on the court has been a problem for McDaniels this season, but the absence of Gordon Hayward has forced the Hornets to look for other options on the court and the second-year player has been one of the beneficiaries. In the last three games, the San Diego State product averaged 16.3 points on 62.5 percent shooting, two made threes, five rebounds and 3.3 assists. He even threw in 1.3 steals and one block per game.

Hayward is expected to be out for at least three more weeks. Until he's back, expect McDaniels to continue his more proactive approach on this team.

Miles Bridges Forward Charlotte Hornets

McDaniels isn't the only one who has taken advantage of Hayward's injury. Bridges has cranked his game up a notch, averaging 21.7 points on 60.5 percent shooting, three made threes, six rebounds and one steal in the last three games. He may have even had the dunk of the year, posterizing Clint Capela on Sunday.

Until Hayward is back, Bridges will get a lot more freedom to operate and that means more fantasy contribution in the coming weeks.

Reggie Jackson Guard Los Angeles Clippers

Depth has not been a problem for the Clippers the last few seasons, but it has been trouble for fantasy managers looking for consistent contributors on that team. Rest and injuries haven't slowed the Clippers' winning ways this week because Reggie Jackson stepped up for them and gives fantasy participants a short-term high performer to lean on for the week.

In a week where Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo and Paul George missed time, Jackson thrived, averaging 17.3 points on 61 percent shooting, three made threes, 4.8 assists, and 1.3 turnovers in four games.

With Beverley out with a fractured hand and Rondo/George/Kawhi undoubtedly taking games off to save themselves for the playoffs, Jackson may not be a bad desperation option in standard fantasy and worth tracking in daily fantasy formats.

Busts

Tim Hardwaway Jr Guard/Forward Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks' recent success has not translated into numbers for all players. Tim Hardaway Jr. is one of them.

The Michigan product averaged 12 points on 37.5 percent shooting, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in four games last week. He did make two three-pointers per game in that span, but that is like threading a silver lining on a used rag.

Hardaway is still the third scoring option on the team, so he will get more chances to increase his production, but this week was a tough pill to swallow for a lot of fantasy managers.

Derrick Rose Guard New York Knicks

Rose has found a home with the New York Knicks, but his role has not been kind to fantasy managers. We all know the former MVP can still score, but head coach Tom Thibodeau hasn't asked him to do much else.

In the last four games, Rose has averaged 14.3 points on 43.1 percent shooting, 0.8 made threes, 1.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. That kind of one-dimensional play is a killer of many fantasy teams looking for a more diverse portfolio of contributions.

If you need a boost in scoring, Rose isn't a terrible option to consider, but if you need anything else, you should leave him on the waiver.

Lou Williams Guard Atlanta Hawks

Like Rose, Williams isn't asked to do anything other than score at this point in his career. But even in the past week, he can't even do that at an elite fantasy level. Only averaging 11.8 points per game, 1.8 made threes, 2.8 assists and basically non-existent in every other category in fantasy sports.

It's safe to say that Lemon Pepper Lou's effectiveness as a fantasy star is gone.

Jusuf Nurkic Center Portland Trail Blazers

Okay, I know Trail Blazers have been trying to ease Nurkic back into the lineup and giving him restricted minutes. However, with the fantasy managers looking for that final push to the postseason, there might have to be an executive decision on whether Nurkic needs to be played or pitched.

Teams firmly in playoff position can hold out for him to be used properly again, but other managers won't be able to stomach another week of missed games and low-end production.

Bogdan Bogdanovic

USA Today

For college basketball, the madness is over. For the NBA fantasy managers, the madness is just beginning.

We are two weeks away from playoffs, and people are scrambling for solutions to their team's problems. Take a look at these waiver wire picks and see who will give you that final push you need to get into the postseason and avoid the humiliation of whatever fantasy punishment you may face.

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Shane Bieber faced off against the Dodgers in Spring Training. He bested Trevor Bauer, allowing only two runs, and striking out nine

Getty Images

Welcome to the Mock Draft lab.

This is where we are running experiments, crunching the numbers, and proving hypotheses, so you can reap the rewards of our hard work. The rules for this exercise were simple: Take the best pitcher in each round without reaching more than 10 spots away in either direction. (This kept us honest and realistic as to who would be available and prevented any major overpays for talent.)

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