Once the most intriguing prospect in the high school Class of 2016, Thon Maker wasn’t even considered a first-round pick in the latest round of mock drafts, so his selection at No. 10 overall came as shock to some.
The Milwaukee Bucks took the Barclays Center by surprise by taking Maker in the lottery. Thanks to a loophole in the NBA’s one-and-done system, the 19-year-old became the first high school player taken in the first round since the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement went into effect. Maker graduated from Canada’s Orangeville (Ontario) District Secondary School in June 2015 and remained with the affiliated basketball program — the Athlete Institute of Ontario — for a post-graduate year in 2015-16.
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“When I walked past most of the guys in the green room, some of the guys looked at me sideways,” said Maker. “Some of the guys I already knew from high school, so we were like friends. So, they were happy and some guys gave me dap. And other guys were like, it should be them. I don’t know, if I were in that situation, I would have been like, congrats, you know, you’ve made a step. Now go make a name for yourself. Yeah.”
And perhaps we shouldn’t have been taken aback when Milwaukee selected Maker, since the Bucks succeeded in taking a flyer on a young Giannis Antetokounmpo in the middle of the 2013 NBA Draft. Maker and Greek Freek make for a fascinating pair, as the former is also a long, athletic talent whose 7-foot-1 frame drew comparisons to Kevin Durant soon after he moved to the U.S. in 2011 from Sudan via Australia.
Maker attended three schools in Louisiana and Virginia by the end of his sophomore season, when he captured 2013-14 Gatorade Virginia Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors after averaging 21.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 4.2 blocks while leading Martinsville (Va.) Carlisle School to a state championship. He was no longer considered an international player and became subject to the NBA’s one-and-done rule.
The following year, he transferred to the famed Athlete Institute of Ontario, a school that also produced Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray, who was selected three slots before Maker by the Denver Nuggets.
Maker’s remarkable journey to the NBA after being discovered playing soccer in Sudan by an Austalian who eventually brought him and his brothers to a basketball camp in Texas has raised some questions about his age. His birthday has long been listed as Feb. 25, 1977, but doubts creeped in as the draft approached.
“It did get to me in terms of me hearing about it,” said Maker, rebuffing the rumors, “but it didn’t get to me personally because if it were true, I’d probably be like sideways about it, but it’s not true, so I’m comfortable. I’m not pissed off or — oh, I’m not angry or anything.”
The other questions surrounding Maker had to do with the level of competition he faced in Virginia and at the Athlete Institute, although he did drop 10 points, six rebounds and a pair of blocks opposite No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons at the 2014 NBPA Top 100 Camp and has held his own against other top recruits.
And while the pick shocked some, at least one future Hall of Famer called Maker “the sleeper of the draft.”
Then again, Paul Pierce loves every No. 10 pick. It’s just surprising that Maker was taken there this year.
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