Do HBCU Schools Have a Better Shot Than Duke at Signing Bronny James?
It doesn’t take much to get rumors and speculation flying when the subject is Bronny James and where the son of NBA superstar LeBron James might play college basketball three years from now.
The latest frenzy was set off by a coup for HBCU institutions, but it’s way too soon to leap to conclusions about whether that’s a clue about how the recruitment of the best-known young basketball player in the country may evolve.
HBCU schools have a long history and important role
The 101 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) still in existence were founded primarily in the South following the Civil War to address discrimination and segregation that made it exceedingly difficult for black students to enroll in most existing institutions of higher learning.
The majority offer master’s or doctoral programs, helping level the educational playing field. Those schools have also been a launching pad for careers in sports, particularly in football. Legendary NFL players Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, and Art Shell are among the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees who got their start at HBCU schools.
Basketball has been a slightly more difficult sport in which to gain a footing, but HBCU schools have produced the likes of Charles Oakley, Earl Monroe, Ben Wallace, and Rick Mahorn.
However, one statistic best explains the uphill struggle those mostly smaller schools from less-prominent college conferences face: Since ESPN began compiling annual lists in 2007 of the nation’s top 100 recruits in basketball, a compilation that will likely include Bronny James in 2023, no player on that list has chosen an HBCU institution directly out of high school, The Undefeated reported.
Makur Maker may influence Bronny James’ decision
Makur Maker, a 6-foot-11 center who has attended a string of high schools since arriving in the United States from Australia in 2015, jolted the basketball world this week by announcing his college choice.
Heavily recruited by numerous Division I schools and expected to choose from among Kentucky, Memphis, and UCLA, one of the highest-rated uncommitted seniors in the country instead picked Howard University, an HBCU institution in Washington, D.C. In making his announcement, Maker challenged other elite recruits to follow in his footsteps.
Assuming he makes it to campus this fall – expect the G League to approach him with a lucrative contract paving the way for an inevitable NBA shot – Maker will be the big fish in a small pond. Howard, which plays in a 2,700-seat gym, was 4-29 last season and plays in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, whose members generally cannot compete with the better mid-majors, let alone schools from power conferences like the ACC and Big Ten.
An indirect recruiting pitch to Bronny James
In encouraging other young stars to follow him to Howard University, Makur Maker specifically mentioned rising sophomore Mikey Williams, a San Diego guard who reportedly has mentioned the idea of going the HBCU route. That raised eyebrows because Williams is a friend of Bronny James, the son of NBA great LeBron James.
Although North Carolina Central, another HBCU program, was one of the early schools to offer Bronny James a scholarship, the presumption has always been that he will be a higher-level recruit in due time.
Bovada, an online gambling site, has made a giant leap by asserting that North Carolina Central is actually favored over Duke to sign James. It’s offering a simple prop bet: Who will Bronny James play for in his NCAA debut?
- North Carolina Central +120
- Duke +125
- Howard +600
- North Carolina A&T +900
- Kentucky +950
- Kansas +1400
- North Carolina +1600
- UCLA +2000
All in all, that’s incredibly speculative for a rising sophomore who averaged 4.1 points a game in his first high school season. What sounds intriguing in 2020 could very well sound preposterous in 2023.