7’0″ center Thon Maker couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
The Milwaukee Bucks were so enamored with the former five-star recruit that a smokescreen was sent out less than 12 hours before the start of the draft.
Several teams have entirely ruled Thon Maker out of the first round due to his age. Multiple sources believe Maker to be 21-23, not 19.
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) June 23, 2016
And the rest was history.
Maker, who was being heavily recruited by Indiana, Notre Dame, St. John’s and Kentucky before he found a loophole in the NBA Draft rules, was picked by the Bucks at number 10 overall. The selection sent shock waves throughout the NBA, college basketball and high school basketball landscape, as Maker hasn’t proven anything more than that he can look really, really talented on a mixtape.
But Maker played this one off nicely. He played at three different high schools and competed on the AAU circuit, but opted not to attend college (possibly because of eligibility issues), did not play in the Nike Hoop Summit this season and didn’t participate in the 5-on-5 portion of the NBA Combine.
The Sudan native was basically hiding from NBA scouts and executives, while former Kentucky Wildcat Skal Labissiere exposed himself at the college level. Labissiere, a prospect from Haiti, completely out-played Maker at the Nike Hoop Summit in 2015, but had a brutal season at Kentucky, where he lost confidence, couldn’t get off the bench and showed a lack of toughness.
Labissiere wasn’t selected until pick number 28 to the Sacramento Kings.
So the questions are, would Labissiere have been picked in the top-five if he didn’t attend college? And will other high school prospects decide not to play college basketball because of this situation?
CBS Sports and The Vertical were the first two outlets to mention this possible trend, and both sources believe that there is certainly a chance more players opt to make this decision.
But it is highly doubtful that the majority of prospects skip college basketball altogether. Regardless of the Maker situation, not playing college basketball is a true risk as it opens up issues about desire and attitude.
In Maker’s case, he has a unique skill set that sets him apart from other pro prospects. He has a combination of size, mobility, shooting touch, ball handling skills and guard-like skills. Very few athletes at his size can play on the perimeter and impact the game on all three levels.
Maker is not Kevin Durant (as high school basketball bloggers once predicted due to his unbelievable mixtape in 2014) and never will be, but there’s no question his upside and potential is there – especially if he gets stronger.
Was it a smart decision for Maker to hold out his services until now? Absolutely. He’s going to receive a four-year guaranteed contract with the opportunity to begin his career at the NBA level (instead of starting in the D-League).
That doesn’t mean others can do the same though. Each prospect and recruit is unique.
Maker would have had his fair share of questions at the college level (questions about his guardian, Ed Smith). Instead, he hid for months and is now ready to take his game to the next level.