Thon Maker sat down with respected NBA reporter David Aldridge to discuss his NBA potential and goals. Something which immediately caught the reporter’s attention was the fact the future Australian Boomer keeps a photo of the Larry O’Brien Trophy on his phone’s wallpaper.
He asked whether this served as a reminder for Maker to maintain his focus on reaching the NBA but was met with an interesting answer.
“I’ve had this for two years,” Maker said Friday at the NBA Draft Combine. “I love trophies. I collect them in my room. It’s beautiful. It makes my phone look good.”
Maker came into the NBA’s recent Draft Combine in Chicago as one of the most intriguing prospects of them all. At the events conclusion Maker had the tongues of many an NBA executive wagging.
Maker recorded a 36.5’ maximum vertical leap which now stands as the highest ever recorded in the history of the combine for players over 6’11. Make also set a new record for the standing vertical leap test for players over 6’11.
Maker’s results in the lane agility, three-quarter sprint, and shuttle run times were equally impressive on the day.
Although Maker impressive athletic feats on day one of the combine resulted in 12 NBA teams wanting to speak with him on day two (these included Boston, Charlotte, the Lakers, Portland and Oklahoma City) many were upset that Maker opted out of any 5-on-5 drills and the chance to see him play against similarly talented players. Perhaps this was his way of keeping some of the intrigue there to follow him into the NBA draft lead up.
The 19-year-old who successfully challenged the NBA’s rule restrictions placed on high school players entering the league. Maker, who now stands around 7’1″ was forced to flee with his family from war torn Sudan when he was six and then grew into a young man while living in Perth and Sydney in Australia.
Since then he has continued to travel the world, making stops in Louisiana, Virginia and Ontario, Canada in order to continually develop his game.
Maker amazingly is now poised to become the first player to jump from high school to the NBA in 11 years, after the league ruled him eligible for the draft a month ago.
“I was just praying and waiting to get in,” said Maker, who had started working out in South Carolina when the decision came. “When I got accepted, I was really happy. My family called me. They said they read the good news online. Just had to be humbled knowing that now it’s like you’re starting your freshman year of high school. You’ve really got to go in there and just put a big goal in your mind just to get better and work as hard as you can.”
Not since the league instituted a rule in the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement that U.S. players be at least 19 and one year removed from the graduation of their high school class, has a player made the leap from preps to the NBA. But Maker’s case was open to interpretation.
He turned 19 in February and argued he actually earned his high school diploma in 2015, even though he spent a fifth year at Athlete Institute Prep in Mono, Ontario, about 90 minutes from Toronto.
Finding a university to play basketball at if he had to would have been an easy fix with Maker’s talents earning interest from all most all the top Division I programs. Where he would have ended up if his appeal to enter the NBA draft hadn’t been successful however isn’t quite so easy for him to answer.
“It would’ve been really tough,” Maker said. “Between ASU, Kansas, Notre Dame and Indiana … St. John’s. Those are really good schools, and it’s not just because of basketball. It’s not just because of academics. The reason I picked out those schools was because they offered both.“
“Those are really good schools and it’s not just because of basketball,” he said. “I would have had to lean on my family for that one.”
Maker believes he has a wide range of skills to make it in the NBA even though he is viewed as more of a project than a finished product. He insisted a team taking him will wind up with a “great player, a hard-working player.”
It’s no secret that despite improving his chances at the recent combine NBA executives are divided on the talents of the young man who together with Dante Exum and Ben Simmons could be the burgeoning of a new golden era for Australian basketball.
One scout noted “He’s not ready for the NBA. Not even close. But this league drafts on potential and because of that, somebody will take him. It may not be until the second round, but he’ll be drafted by someone.”
Another current NBA assistant who had a chance to see him play at a Basketball Without Borders tournament and came away with a very different opinion of Maker.
“You immediately saw the separation of talent, of God-given ability, he’s a multi-faceted player, a willing learner.”
Either way it seems whoever selects Thon Maker will most likely have to spend a considerable amount of time developing him in the NBA until he pays dividends for an NBA team. However, as we saw with interest built around Dante Exum and the fact he spent a great deal of time out of the conventional NBA radars, that intrigue maybe what see’s him become another NBA multi-millionaire.