Give Thon Maker this: He’s both decisive and confident.
A day after petitioning to enter the 2016 NBA Draft, Maker spoke with Draft Xpress about his decision and what he expects from the draft, his future in the NBA and the interim steps between now and then. Among the larger takeaways are the 7-footer’s overwhelming confidence in his ability to compete with and against other prospects, and the general lack of awareness that the NBA Draft was even a possibility.
According to Maker, his coach and guardian Edward Smith didn’t tell the Sudanese native he was confident Maker would be eligible for the NBA Draft until March 25. Apparently, as soon as Smith presented the potential option to Maker, he elected to pursue it.
“My guardian came and told me that he felt that I was eligible for this year’s draft. I was like what? I think it was March 25th. He didn’t have to ask me anything. I just said let’s go. I was a little upset he didn’t tell me earlier, but I understood. He didn’t want me feeling pressure this year and playing differently during the season. He just wanted me to enjoy my last year of high school ball, which I did.”
If true, the entire scenario seems riddled with personal conflict, given Smith’s relationship as Maker’s coach; it would make sense that he wouldn’t want to tell Maker he was eligible at a time when he was competing in the high school season, as Maker’s distraction could negatively impact Smith’s team. Additionally, as noted by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman and others, Smith had given ironclad promises that Maker would be competing in the NCAA, which now are clearly not going to come to fruition.
Regardless of when Maker knew he could be draft eligible, now that he has made the decision he is clearly all-in. The teen insisted that as soon as the NBA cleared his petition to enter the draft he would hire an agent, and said that he would not be competing in premier high school events like the NBA Hoop Summit (with the exception of the BioSteel High School All-Canadian Game and Practice), but would participate in the NBA Combine.
And then there is Maker’s self-confidence in his ability to grow in the game. The Australian has only been playing organized basketball since 2011, and recognizes that there are parts of his game that still need to improve. That isn’t to say that he has questions about his ability to grow and emerge as a bona fide star in the NBA.
“I see myself more like KG on the blocks, but also being able to be used in multiple perimeter based actions. I see myself quarterbacking our defense and being a mismatch on offense.
For me, I also have to be talking about making a run at an NBA championship or going deep into the playoffs.”
Those are big expectations for someone who has only been competing in a sport for slightly more than five years. If he achieves them, all of the hype and attention that preceded his entry to the league will certainly have been justified.
Follow Cam Smith on Twitter: @camsmithsports