CHANDLER, Ariz. — On Saturday night in a Phoenix suburb, the brand new basketball team Center of International Basketball Academy at Pacific Academy (Irvine, California) was humbled by AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Arizona).
Makur Maker had a game-high 29 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough to stop the barrage of AZ Compass Prep 3-pointers and aggressive defense. CIBA fell 102-66.
Nevertheless, this is the type of challenge he and his guardian, CIBA coach Ed Smith, foresaw when they decided to go to the school with a brand-new basketball program.
“I wanted him to have adversity,” Smith said. “He’s really, really good, but how does he lead in adversity? What does he do? How does he become great without help?”
Maker is the No. 12 player in the 2020 Chosen 25 and the cousin of Detroit Pistons center Thon Maker and professional basketball player Matur Maker. Both cousins were under the guardianship of Smith when Makur joined them in Canada in 2016, according to Fox Sports.
Maker exhibited some traits Saturday night that showed why he’s viewed as a future NBA player. He has excellent passing skills and a nice shooting stroke for someone who stands 6-foot-11. He played at the top of the key more than in the post, watching as the play developed so he could pass to a teammate in stride or hand it off and set a pick.
But at a school without any basketball history, one that’s still waiting for two more players to arrive – one from Australia, another from South America – CIBA was unable compete against the stacked AZ Compass Prep roster for most of the game.
For as many good passes as he delivered, there were ones that didn’t find the mark. Smith put that on the inexperience of a team trying to learn a flow system similar to what helped the Golden State Warriors dominate the NBA in recent years.
“We have certain systems that we run,” he said. “We talked about passing to where the guys are supposed to be. And our guys are not where they’re supposed to be.”
Just two games into the year, Smith hopes Maker is learning to balance sharing the basketball with the need to take over.
“He should have broken off a play and kept the ball. That would’ve been selfish, but he’s trying to run what we’re supposed to run,” Smith said. “So this is a lesson that he learns – ‘Hey look, sometimes I gotta break off a play and I gotta go.'”
In an environment where player movement is now common from youth basketball all the way up to the NBA level, Smith thinks learning to play without stars will help Maker be a better player and teammate.
“I hope I’m right!” Smith said with a laugh. “I better be right!”
Even if Smith isn’t, Maker only has one more season of high school basketball. Then comes the question: Will he be eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft?
Maker petitioned the NBA to be allowed to forgo college and enter the draft. He missed a season of high school basketball due to injury, so this is his fifth year at school and fourth playing basketball.
“The question is, for the league, is that if his clock did start at that period of time [his first season], even though he was injured — it was like a redshirt year — is this really your fifth year, even though it’s your fourth year of play? That’s the question. That’s really the question here. … If you’re injured, does your clock keep going and you don’t play? But you physically are in school?” Smith said.
“Is it a playing thing – are they saying you have to play four years? That’s our question that we need answered. So we know where his start date is, but if it’s based on his start date, then he is eligible for the draft. If it’s based on that. But if it’s based on the number of years that you play within that period of time, then he won’t be.
“But if he is eligible, he has everything in front of him.”
If Maker is deemed eligible for the NBA, he will enter the draft prep period and seek realistic draft projections. If he’s content with the results, he will continue forward toward the pros. If not, he would have until June 15 to pull out of the draft and attend college instead.
He just has one season of high school basketball and one decision for the league to make before his future begins to take shape.