by Kaleb Page
Every decade or even few years in the game of basketball, there comes along a talent that people look to in amazement and classify as the next big thing. It looks like the high school basketball class of 2015 or 2016 has what could be that once ever-so-often talent.
This talented player is named Thon Maker, a 7 ft. 210 lb. forward/center who is playing in Ontario Canada for the Athlete Institute (prep basketball team). Born in the Sudan and eventually moving to Australia and to the United States, Thon is now a sought after basketball talent with skills that are almost unmatched when paired with the physical tools he was born with.
For having a natural big man frame, Maker is not your typical big man. He runs the open floor like a guard half his size. He can rip down a rebound and within seconds be flying down the court with the ball, head up and looking to be a threat. From my experience playing with big men in basketball, their ability to dribble effectively on the break and look up the court is hard for them to do. That is why when you watch a guy like Thon, it blows you away with how fluid he moves on the court and the ability he has to pass, dribble, and shoot. He has the mid-range jump shot that is as smooth a motion you will see from a big man, and it almost reminds you of the days when Kevin Garnett would stop, face-up and take a 15-20 foot jumper. It can be seen in videos as well, that he can be effective from three-point range as well. Also defensively, his rim protecting skills place him in a special category for a young post player.
It almost seemed natural for Thon upon coming to the United States to make the jump from regular high school basketball to a prep academy. This would take him to an even higher level of basketball in order to prepare for the next step. From what can be seen so far, coaches across the country have to be salivating over what they could land in the recruiting process.
With two years of eligibility left, Thon could forgo his senior year of high school and go to college in 2015 instead of waiting for 2016. Either way he will be the number one player still in ESPN’s recruiting rankings. He has received offers from the power programs of college basketball: Arizona, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, etc. The choice on where he will go is still to be seen.
With that said there is room for the big man to improve, as any player in the game should do in order to maximize on the potential they have. Defensively, even though Thon is a great rim protector, he can have his troubles in the paint with big men who are bigger and can out muscle him at the point of attack. Definitely at his basketball academy they will look to boost his strength and add to his 210 lb. frame, so he can handle strong players in the paint. His finishing ability at the rim could take some polishing when it comes to receiving contact from defenders, but that will come with more practice and coaching. Like with all great players Thon still needs some development, but with what he has shown already the potential to do something special has to be kept in mind.
Comparisons have been tossed around that he is the next Kevin Garnett, the next Kevin Durant, the next Magic Johnson or even the next Hakeem Olajuwon. While it may happen that he becomes this 7 ft. guard/forward/center combo that combines all of those great players talents; I say let the anointed ‘phenom’ of the time blossom. He is only 17 years old and needs to have time to grow and fill out his potential. It is important while we sit back in amazement at what we see in the highlights, we also look to let this naturally happen instead of forcing the issue. If we force this too much we could turn Thon Maker into a basketball player who had all this potential, but crumbled in the end because he could never live up to the impossible image we all created as to what he should be.