The recruitment of top 2023 prospect Mikey Williams could be the catalyst for a renaissance of HBCU Basketball at the Division I level. Other recruits and Black College programs are taking notice and acting accordingly.
California native Mikey Williams has everything you could want in an elite, high-major basketball recruit; He’s an explosive athletic talent that’s got the complete offensive package for a guard to flourish at the collegiate level. He’s the kind of recruit that pretty much every Power 5 program on the map would be doing backflips to join their program.
He’s also a kid that’s got a sense of how basketball landscape would change if he took the ‘less traveled’ path to the college basketball stage. While Williams is almost certainly going to be pursued by many of the aforementioned big programs, his foundation is a bit…different.
William’s mom was an athlete as well, but she pursued her athletic endeavors at Hampton University, a prestigious Historically Black College located in Virginia’s tidewater area. Mikey’s seemed to embrace that heritage and infused the history and influence of that culture into his recruiting process. The phenom hinted to it on his now high-traffic Twitter feed, and pretty much every social media outlet picked up on it immediately. ESPN even caught wind of it:
SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June
Needless to say, the notion of high-major recruits seriously re-considering the HBCU experience when it comes to where they want to play their college ball is big. It’s also almost assuredly a reflection of the current social climate that’s going on outside of the bubble of college basketball in general. Whatever the factors are, the buzz reverberating around social media circles have been enough to not only influence other high-major recruits to consider following suit, but it’s empowered HBCU coaches and programs to have the confidence to go after talent that they’d ordinarily label as unattainable.
High-profile coaching hires at HBCU programs, like the hiring of former NBA All-Star Mo Williams at Alabama State and University of Maryland legend Juan Dixon at Coppin State, have also had a substantial influence in increasing the name recognition of both the SWAC and MEAC among mid-major programs and in prep circles in general.
Now the precedent for high-major talent TRANSFERRING to an HBCU isn’t necessarily unusual. Norfolk State’s Kyle O’Quinn, Howard’s James Daniel III, and RJ Cole are only some of a number of players that opted to transfer to an HBCU to get playing time and to potentially star on the big stage of the NCAA tournament. Who could forget Kyle O’Quinn’s epic performance against a loaded Missouri squad in Norfolk State’s tourney upset in 2012? How about transfer heavy Hampton knocking off a Jamaal Tinsley led Iowa State Cyclones squad in 2001?
Kyle O’Quinn translated his court time in the MEAC into an NBA career. Lavelle Moten at North Carolina Central University and Will Jones at North Carolina A&T have embraced the formula of accepting high-major transfers and molding a successful basketball culture. North Carolina Central, in particular, has dominated the MEAC since he became the coach there utilizing this formula. that being said, the recruitment of Mikey Williams, Bronnie James, and other young up-and-coming players could represent a paradigm shift in both the way HBCU basketball programs approach grassroots and prep recruiting.
It could also shape how talented players view HBCU programs in terms of an alternate pathway to the NBA. At the bare minimum, the overall level of play in both the MEAC and SWAC could increase exponentially, which could have extremely positive long-term effects for both leagues in terms of their respective places in the pecking order among mid-major conferences.
Of course, it’s extremely early in the story of Mikey Williams’s journey to the college basketball stage and it’s a certainty that Power 5 schools will make their pitch to have Mikey Williams joining their storied ranks. Ultimately, the buzz and the attention generated on the proud and culture-rich legacy that Black College hoops offer potential prospects is worth its weight in platinum for every HBCU program at the D1 level and beyond.
The cool thing about all of this is that the ride is just getting started. As a College Basketball fan and an HBCU enthusiast, I’m eager and excited to see how this story plays out.