Thon Maker is quite possibly the best young basketball prospect in the world. He also may be the most controversial as his story is complex and still evolving.
At the present time, Maker is a junior forward at Athletes Institute in Canada, an elite basketball program where players attend school in the Orangeville District Secondary School.
Maker spent his sophomore season at the Carlisle School in Virginia, where he was the top ranked 2016 prospect in the United States and arguably the best prospect in all of high school basketball regardless of class.
His decision to head to Canada alongside his guardian Ed Smith, who now serves as an assistant coach at Athletes Institute, and younger brother, Matur, who is also on the team, raised eyebrows not only because it was almost unprecedented but also because there was never a concrete explanation as to the reasoning behind it.
While those are the headlines that the media has fixated on as of late, the story of how Maker made it to the United States in the first place is an incredible one.
He was born in the South Sudan where he lived with his family until he was five years old. Thon and Matur escaped the civil war torn country alongside their aunt, originally moving to Uganda before becoming Australian refugees.
Maker lived with his aunt until he was 14 years old and met Smith, who offered to take both brothers in and bring them to Sydney to be educated and trained in basketball.
It was in 2011 when Thon made his first appearance in the United States, attending a camp in Texas before then briefly attending two different high schools in Louisiana. He moved to the Carlisle School in the fall of 2012 and spent two years there before moving to Canada.
Now, having spent the last six months at Athletes Institute, Maker announced a reclassification to 2015, meaning he will graduate at the end of the school year. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that he’ll be heading to college next season.
While that is reportedly an option – with Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and Indiana being some of the most often mentioned suitors – it also remains possible that Maker could opt to play professionally in an international league before declaring for the 2016 NBA Draft or that he could even stay at Athletes Institute to play for their post-graduate team.
The move to 2015 is an important one as it pertains to his draft status since the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement dictates not only a minimum age to be draft eligible but also that a player be one year removed from his graduating year in high school.
In other words, Maker’s reclassification back to 2015 makes him draft eligible in 2016 while his current status in the class of 2016 would push back his draft eligibility to 2017.
Maker’s immense potential on the floor is based on a unique combination of size, length, agility, athleticism, and skill.
At 7-foot-1 he not only covers the court and gets his head on the rim with ease but he also has the skill set of a guard. He can handle and pass the ball against pressure, shoot it well beyond the three point line, and also has excellent footwork.
While he undoubtedly needs to get much stronger and become more consistent playing through contact, Maker’s unique abilities have already drawn comparisons to likes to Kevin Durant and Kevin Garnett. Many scouts have even gone so far as to predict that he’ll be the top overall pick in the NBA Draft regardless of when he opts to come out.