NEW YORK — One of the biggest questions in this year’s recruiting cycle is whether Thon Maker, a 7-1 player from the Athlete Institute Basketball Academy (Orangeville, Ontario) who runs like a guard and has more potential than Apple stock circa 1980, will reclassify from 2016 to the 2015 class.
But it’s Thon’s younger brother Matur who might hold the answer in his hands, one of which is heavily bandaged.
“I hurt it in the BioSteel All-Canadian Game on a dunk,” said Matur, who is a 6-10 sophomore at the Athlete Institute and is playing in Friday’s International Game at the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn.
Indiana has already offered a scholarship to the brothers. There are plenty of college coaches who would love to have both on their team, though Matur said that’s not likely to happen. Thon agrees and says the biggest reason he might not reclassify would be to play another season with Matur at the Athlete Institute.
“If I do end up staying another year and playing with my brother, that would be something special,” Thon said last week at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore. “I still want to play with him because the next time we play, it will be against each other, whether it’s in college or the NBA.”
The Makers were born in South Sudan, but grew up in Australia. Five years ago, Thon was a very tall soccer player in Australia when he was discovered by Ed Smith, who is now his North American guardian. Smith brought Thon to Louisiana and Maker played his freshman year at Metairie Day School in the New Orleans suburbs. A year later, Smith took a job as an assistant at Carlisle (Martinsville, Va.) and Maker, though still very skinny, then just less than 200 pounds, began to get noticed. The next season, Matur joined Thon at Carlisle partway through the season.
“When I brought his brother over, it made him whole,” Smith said of Thon. “You have a kid who is away from home and it’s tough figuring things out. All of a sudden, I remember the first night when his brother came and I heard laughter downstairs. You could see it was important to him.”
With Smith as an assistant coach at the Athlete Institute, the Makers played a whole season together for the first time in 2014-15 and the team, led by the Makers and elite guard Jamal Murray, defeated some top American schools, including Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) and the now-defunct Prime Prep (Dallas).
If Thon reclassifies, it puts him a year closer to the NBA and a potential big payday, but Smith said he needs to think long-term as well.
“If he can get everything done that he needs to graduate by August, he’ll look at the college route,” Smith said. “If he finishes in December, he’ll see whether there’s a good fit for him to enroll then in college or if he wants to finish the season out with his team.
“I have to slow down. I talked to him about how he has to go to college to get better, to get access to better facilities and all that and then I asked him, ‘What do you want to do, Thon?’ He said, ‘I want to play with my brother another year.’ The process doesn’t have to be a rush. You don’t have to be a one-and-done or a two-and-out. You just want to make sure you last a long time in the league if that’s your goal.”
Thon now weighs 218, which has allowed him to be more of a presence inside. Matur is listed at 200, but is likely a few pounds south of that. Matur said he doesn’t want to sway Thon’s choice, but for selfish reasons, he would like to play alongside his brother for another season.
“Obviously, it’s his decision,” Matur said. “It makes a lot of difference to me. By playing together, we’re helping ourselves in terms of our games, in terms of defense. I’m picking up a lot from him. It’s a great way to get experience.”