Howard Coach Kenny Blakeney Talks Makur Maker, Upcoming Season

Jason Jordan

Having been a part of Duke’s back-to-back national championship squads in 1991 and 1992, Howard men’s basketball coach Kenny Blakeney knows all too well about scrutiny.

That experience should come in handy for a coach who admits that he will have “the most watched and scrutinized program throughout this year.”

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The proverbial gift and the curse of reeling in Makur Maker, the highest-ranked recruit to pick a Historically Black College/University in the modern recruiting era.

“There are a lot of eyes on us and we understand that, but we’re not shying away from that,” Blakeney said. “We’re embracing it, and we accept all the stuff that comes with that. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Since arriving on campus, Blakeney said he’s been most impressed with Maker’s “maturity and professionalism” on and off the court.

“He has a work ethic that is second to none,” Blakeney said. “He starts his first workout at 6 a.m. by himself then he has a second workout with us during practice and then he works out after practice. He’s a young man that’s trying to maximize his potential, but also to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.”

Maker’s combination of size (7-feet), versatility and his ability to score and create on all three levels makes him an intriguing prospect for NBA scouts.

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Blakeney said he’s used his time during the pandemic to pick the brains of different NBA teams on how to implement an NBA style to utilize all of Maker’s versatility.

Last season at Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.), Maker averaged 17.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game for the Bruins in 12 games.

“We’re gonna play in an NBA-style system this year; we’re gonna put him all over the floor,” Blakeney said of Maker. “It’s more position-less basketball for us, and it’s a style I’ve always dreamed of coaching. It’s something that we’ve taken a little bit from Coach K in my time as a player at Duke. We want to play uptempo, which will give us a chance for other players to grow and develop while Makur is here for a year.”

Last year, in his first season as head coach, Blakeney and the Bison finished 4–29 overall.

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Still, with Maker in the fold and the “foundation” in place, Blakeney is optimistic about his team’s prospects this season.

“Most of the guys that we have on our team right now are all guys that our staff brought in,” Blakeney said. “We lost eight or nine league games by one or two possessions. We really feel like we have some pieces in place now that will help us take that step forward. We’re excited to take on the challenge on competing.”