All the top college basketball programs waiting on Thon Maker can move on; he’s heading straight for the NBA.
As first reported by Bleacher Report, Maker has decided to apply for the 2016 NBA Draft. Maker’s guardian, Edward Smith, acknowledged to the sports outlet that Maker’s entry to the draft will require a ruling from the NBA, but he expressed confidence that Maker will meet the draft eligibility requirement as a high school graduate — he earned a diploma from the Carlisle School in Martinsville, Va. — who has been removed from his degree by a full year and will turn 19 during 2016, the calendar year in which the draft is being held. Maker has been widely considered a top-10 overall prospect and top-2 power forward recruit as a member of the Class of 2016.
“Thon has been the hardest-working and the most astute kid I’ve coached in my 23 years of coaching,” Smith told Bleacher Report. “I’m happy to have placed him in the position to have this choice.”
Of course, whether or not Maker truly has that choice is in the hands of the NBA, which may be reticent to rubber stamp a new avenue to draft eligibility that would allow top prospects to avoid both NCAA basketball and competition in top foreign leagues.
In fact, some pointed to uncertainty regarding Maker’s NCAA eligibility as a possible motivating factor behind his decision to declare for the NBA now. The 7-foot, 205-pound Sudanese native spent the past season competing for Athlete Institute Basketball Academy in Toronto. The versatile big man, whose game can sometime resemble a taller Kevin Durant, moved to Perth, Australia at age 5 when he and his family emigrated as refugees from Uganda, and his entry in the draft could lead to two Australians being selected in the NBA Draft lottery; now-former LSU forward and Australian Ben Simmons is expected to be the first or second overall selection in the draft.
There are significant doubts that Maker’s stock would push that high, yet the number of uncertainties regarding top-tier players in the forthcoming draft present the distinct possibility that Maker’s potential alone could justify a lottery selection, and a solid performance at the NBA Scouting Combine would go a long way to ensuring that outcome.
For now, all of that is on hold until the NBA decides how to handle one of the most intriguing prospects in the coming draft class.
Follow Cam Smith on Twitter: @camsmithsports