What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

Top recruit Makur Maker gets taste of HBCUs on The Yard at Howard

His visit and that of top recruit Josh Christopher could be a tipping point for HBCUs

11:00 AMAs Makur Maker, the nation’s No. 10 basketball recruit, made his way around the Howard University campus during homecoming weekend, he had plenty of entertainment options that included Yardfest performances by DaBaby and Juvenile, and a Sunday Service featuring Kanye West. The previous weekend, No. 12 recruit Josh Christopher enjoyed his visit to “The Mecca,” where he attended a kickoff event that featured a step show, Howard’s Showtime marching band and the Ooh La La! Dancers in a packed gym.

As Maker and Christopher visited Howard, they clearly did it for (and received heavy doses of) the culture.

But did it mark a moment in sports where the two are willing to change the culture of where athletes play college sports?

That two of the nation’s top high school basketball players made official visits to a historically black college or university (HBCU) to consider playing there is unheard of. Yet Maker and Christopher, who are likely one-and-done players in college, want you to believe their visits weren’t just for show.

Christopher, an athletic 6-foot-4 guard from California, said his visit was serious because “I would never waste anyone’s time.”

Maker, a 6-foot-11 “point center” playing his last year of high school basketball in California, has spoken often about “changing the narrative” when it comes to sports and HBCUs.

“I think we’re starting a different culture with top recruits coming in to visit here and taking this seriously,” Maker said Oct. 12 before scrimmaging with the Howard basketball team. “A lot of HBCUs are being overlooked.”

While Howard basketball coach Kenny Blakeney couldn’t speak directly about the visits by Maker and Christopher, he was pleased that top athletes are putting HBCUs on their radar.

“This brings awareness and reminds people of the value of HBCUs,” Blakeney said. “Back in the ’60s and ’70s, HBCUs were the only places where African Americans could attend school and participate in extracurricular activities.

“Times are different, and now there are student-athletes who are seeing LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick, the ‘woke athlete,’ ” Blakeney added. “There’s a trickle-down effect with today’s athlete. And I think they can see what their impact could be if they were to attend an HBCU.”

Makur Maker (third from the left) stands among Howard University men’s basketball players after a workout Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.

Howard University

As Maker and Christopher continue their college visits — which will include NBA-sized arenas, luxury facilities and athletics budgets in the tens of millions of dollars — the chances of them seriously considering attending Howard might be a long shot. Christopher’s offers include Kentucky, Michigan and UCLA, and Maker’s offers include Arizona State and Indiana.

But there’s an old adage that “you have to be in it to win it.” That Christopher and Maker both visited Washington shows that Howard has elevated itself to being in the mix.

What Howard presented goes beyond the material offerings of the Power 5 schools that get prime recruits.

“There’s a lot of business opportunities, a lot of black leaders here,” Maker said of his visit. “I’ve seen the alumni. I spoke to the president. The opportunity is here.

“It seems like everybody is all in together, everybody knows each other,” he added. “The culture is definitely here. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Kenyan becomes first to run marathon in less than two hours

Eliud Kipchoge’s incredible time won’t be recognized as an official record

12:48 PM

Is it possible to run a marathon in less than two hours?

Olympic champion and world record holder for the marathon, Eliud Kipchoge, and his team proved Saturday morning the answer is yes.

In front of a cheering crowd, the 34-year-old Kenyan native ran 26.2 miles in an unprecedented time of 1:59:40. His average mile time was four minutes and 33 seconds. He did it in the INEOS 1.59 Challenge, a run designed specifically for him, at Prater Park in Vienna, Austria.

Soon after the event, reaction followed on social media.

After the race, Kipchoge told ESPN: “That was the best moment of my life. The pressure was very big on my shoulders. I got a phone call from the president of Kenya. I am the happiest man today.”

No doubt this accomplishment makes Kipchoge, who has already medaled in the Olympics three times and won eight major marathons, one of the greatest marathoners of all time. However, the feat will not be recognized as an official world record by the sport’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

There were several reasons – Kipchoge was paced by a team of athletes including other Olympic distance runners from the U.S., Ethiopia and Uganda; a laser beam from a pace car was used to indicate the best position on the road to run; and the run was not an open competition.

The location, date and time of the run were also carefully chosen by Kipchoge’s team. Prater Park hosts a fast, flat course with little wind resistance. The humidity was low and the temperature was in the 40s. The circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycle) of Kipchoge’s body were also monitored for the best time for him to run.

Tony Ruiz, road racing coach for the Central Park Track Club, acknowledged Kipchoge’s time as a great accomplishment but agrees with the IAAF’s stance.

“It’s not recognized as a WR [world record] for a reason! I wouldn’t put it on the same level as when the 4:00 mile was broken. It’s still a great accomplishment, but pacers help a bunch! I don’t think he’d have done it without them,” he told The Undefeated.

Anthony Reed, cofounder of the National Black Marathoners Association, feels differently.

“I think it would have been possible to do it without all of that support, but it would have taken years. It’s equivalent to when [Roger] Bannister broke the 4-minute mile. I believe others will start doing that in marathons,” he said. He was referring to Roger Bannister, the first known man to run a 3:59-minute mile in 1954.

Kipchoge’s first attempt to break two hours was documented and organized by Nike in 2017. It took place on the Formula One track in Monza, Italy, but he fell short of the goal by 26 seconds. Saturday’s run was organized by the petrochemical company INEOS. Before Saturday, Kipchoge’s best marathon time was 2:01:39.