A man ahead of his time

Yesterday, I wrote about how some top high school basketball players are talking about choosing to play at historically black colleges, rather than at schools with top basketball programs. One highly-rated prospect just committed to Howard University, reportedly turning down Kentucky, Oregon, and Memphis, among others.

I assume that most black basketball players have always considered the extent to which the colleges that recruit them will provide a good, comfortable racial setting. It wouldn’t make sense not to take this into account.

Decades ago, one top Washington, D.C. area basketball recruit raised race-based college selecting to an art form. Jerrod Mustaf, a high school all-American out of DeMatha, sent detailed questionnaires to the college coaches who were recruiting him. The questions pertained to things like black representation among faculty, black graduation rates, and black coaches.

As to his coaches, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski responded, “I hire coaches, not blacks or whites.” Translation: all coaches matter.

Reportedly, Mustaf’s father, a political activist and one-time supporter of the Black Panthers, guided the player in this process. The father didn’t like Krzyzewski’s answer, according to the son.

Mustaf ended up at the University of Maryland. At the time, the Terps had an African-American coach, Bob Wade. However, Maryland fired Wade after Mustaf’s freshman year.

Mustaf had an outstanding sophomore year under new coach Gary Williams. He then entered the NBA as the 17th overall pick in the 1990 draft. After an undistinguished NBA career, he moved on to European basketball.

While still in the NBA, Mustaf became part of a murder investigation after his pregnant girlfriend was murdered by his cousin. Mustaf was never charged, notwithstanding strong suspicions that he paid his cousin to commit the murder.

The prosecutor in the case calls his superior’s decision not bring Mustaf to trial one of the biggest regrets of his career. The family of the murder victim filed a wrongful death case against Mustaf. He settled it for an undisclosed amount.

Later, Mustaf was charged with assaulting his wife, the niece of Louis Farrakhan. This was one of several domestic abuse cases against him, including a case involving a different pregnant girlfriend.

These days, Mustaf works in the D.C. area on gang prevention, crisis intervention, and the like. Whatever else one might say about Mustaf, he was a man ahead of his time when it comes to black basketball stars choosing where to attend college.

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