NCB On The Trail: Thon Maker

HYATTSVILLE, Md. – Don’t expect Thon Maker to be the next Emmanuel Mudiay.

Ever since Mudiay announced he was going to play professionally in China instead of attending SMU, there has been debate whether the star guard was starting a trend.

[+] EnlargeThon Maker
AP Photo/Gregory PayanThon Maker is considering reclassifying to 2015 and joining the American college ranks.
In Maker’s case, it appears unlikely.

“No. Not at all,” Maker said when asked if playing overseas for one season was an appealing option.

Maker, a 7-foot center who now plays at Orangeville Prep in Canada, is a five-star prospect in the class of 2016. He was born in the South Sudan before moving to Australia for seven years. When Maker began playing basketball, he moved to the United States and has attended multiple high schools since arriving in the States.

Because of his unique skill set and immense potential, Maker is a likely lottery pick whenever he decides to enter the NBA draft. But he made it clear he wants to spend time in college before making that move.

“I’ve been watching college ball for awhile, and it just causes me to think about that, reclassifying,” Maker told ESPN.com. “So I can get ready for college ball. But so far it’s been, ‘Get ready, get ready, get ready. Have your body ready.’ So as soon as I decide whether I’m reclassifying or not, I’m finally playing college ball – not [just] watching it.”

Maker is being recruited by most of the sport’s biggest programs. He and his Orangeville teammates toured the Maryland campus while in the area for this past weekend’s National High School Hoops Festival. Maker also has visited Kansas, Missouri, Duke, Kentucky and Louisville, while Indiana is among the other schools in pursuit.

As for the possibility of reclassifying, Maker said he would know more in January – when his semester ends and he can assess how much more work he would have to do in order to join the 2015 class.
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Thon Maker

HYATTSVILLE, Md. -- The Washington, D.C., area was the epicenter of high school basketball over the weekend, with multiple events going on near the nation's capital. The main attraction was the National High School Hoops Festival held at DeMatha Catholic (Md.).

Here are five key observations from the weekend:

Recruiting has quieted down a bit since the end of the early signing period and the start of the high school and college seasons, but there are plenty of teams still looking for players. Where will these schools find them?

Available players

The most obvious route is the remaining uncommitted players in the 2015 class. We’ve gone over the top 100 players countless times, and while there aren’t too many of that caliber still on the board, that’s the straight-forward option for teams still in need. The premier programs in the country are gunning for the Jaylen Browns, Diamond Stones and Ivan Rabbs of the world, but lower-tier high-major programs and mid-major programs have to keep their eyes out. They’re looking outside the top 100 and will also be on the prowl for players set to emerge during their senior seasons.

As those borderline high-major prospects continue to wait to commit to a school, though, they see their recruitment rise significantly. And therein lies the danger for schools: The talent pool among seniors dries out, schools still need players -- and desperation kicks in. That’s when you’ll see programs reaching for players, just to fill a void or get a body on the roster. For new coaches taking over programs, it’s a necessary evil; they simply need guys. But in some cases, it’s better to hold onto a scholarship for next year instead of reaching for a guy who won’t cut it at the high-major or mid-major level and will therefore transfer or take up a scholarship for four years.


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NEW YORK -- The Under Armour Elite 24 game is loaded with ESPN Recruiting Nation ranked players from the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 and can be seen at 7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU live from Pier 2 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Let's take a look at five matchups that we are most excited to see.

POINT GUARDS

ESPN 100 No. 62 Jawun Evans 6-foot, 180 (Dallas, Texas/Justin F. Kimball) vs. ESPN 60 No. 9 Dennis Smith Jr. 6-1, 173 (Fayetteville, N.C./Trinity Christian School): In this all-important lead guard matchup, it will exciting to see who will run their team, push the ball and set the tone. Evans -- a great finisher for his size -- has blinding speed and quickness and can get teammates involved. Smith beats defenders off the bounce with ease and is a playmaker for himself or teammates. He is a highlight finisher on the break who can simply put the defense on its heels and create help situations all over the offensive end of the floor.


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Adidas Nations, one of the final team events of the summer, finished its four-day run on Monday. The talent included outstanding players in the United States to top global prospects. In the championship game, 2016 adidas U.S. Lillard defeated 2016 adidas U.S. Wall, 106-78. 2015 adidas U.S. Howard won the consolation over team Europe, 52-46.

My five takeaways


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Adidas Super 64 recap 

July, 25, 2014
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LAS VEGAS -- It was our first look at the national talent on the Adidas side of things and we did not go home disappointed. Hosting the Adidas Super 64 at the Cashman Center allows coaches and scouts to stay at one venue and take in the talents of fast-rising senior Jaylen Brown as well as the multi-faceted game of super junior Miles Bridges. However, there were a couple of highly ranked seniors that didn't match the Vegas heat as their performance would fall under the "too cool" category.

Best Senior

[+] EnlargeJaylen Brown
Kelly Kline/AdidasSeveral big-name college coaches were in attendance to watch small forward Jaylen Brown take to the court in Las Vegas.
Jaylen Brown

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The NBPA top 100 dream team 

June, 23, 2014
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After watching over 100 prospects at the NBPA top 100 camp during a four-day period, I thought who would I want to coach if I had one practice before playing one game.

I am making my decisions based on their performances and stats from the camp courtesy of Statva.com, along with prior evaluations from the high school year and the spring evaluation period.

Assembling this team wasn't just about sheer talent. It was more about the prospects’ skill level, productivity, and how well they know their roles and are able to blend their talent into a team concept. The roster below has everything I would want and need to win a game.

Here is the starting lineup, sixth man, and bench:

Starting lineup


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NBPA Top 100 camp wrap 

June, 22, 2014
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The NBPA Top 100 camp always displays some of the best collections of talent in the summer.

The most impressive part of this event was the fact that the players played hard and competed from start to finish. Here are some players who stood out.

Best point guards

Perry Dozier (Columbia, South Carolina/Spring Valley)
PG/SG, 2015, 6-foot-4, 185 pounds


Perry is a rare combo guard. Many players who are designated as combo guards are generally not a point guard or a shooting guard. Dozier is actually both, as he can play either guard spot with equal efficiency. He was much more productive and assertive than I had seen in the past, and he showed the ability to run a team. Dozier averaged just over 8 points per game for the camp, but he showcased the ability of a top-20 player in the class.


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NBPA Top 100 Day 2 recap 

June, 20, 2014
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The second day of the NBPA top 100 camp is in the books, and now that the players have a greater feel of what to expect, there was a good flow to the games.

As the talent gets acclimated to each other, the matchups become exciting and intriguing. Let’s take a look at who impressed and what was the best head-to-head matchup of the day.


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If you’ve noticed a sudden rush of recruiting information for 2016 prospects in the last few days, it's no coincidence.

Sunday was the first day that college coaches were permitted to contact prospects in the rising junior class, and for some prospects that literally meant the phone rang when the clock struck midnight.

Often times, those conversations are followed by some sort of offer. Here’s a look at some of the latest news for the Class of 2016:


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The Class of 2015 is in its early stages of development as new prospects are being recognized weekly and more established prospects are working to keep their reputations intact. May is a time to evaluate and analyze the nation's best. We will update our rankings in June after we get a thorough evaluation and find the emerging talent in this class.

With six months to go before the early signing period here is an early preview of the Class of 2015:


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#AskCoachB: Sweet '16

March, 4, 2014
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

From @BrotherQC on Twitter: @PaulBiancardi How high are you on the 2016 class of talent? Looks promising so far. #AskcoachB

I am extremely high on the Class of 2016. They are years away from maturity and development, but this group has some stars-in-the-making who are starting to blossom.

Thon Maker (Martinsville, Va./Carlisle School), ranked No. 1 in the ESPN 25 for the sophomore class, is a shot blocker who is unique as a 7-footer with tremendous skill-to-size ratio. No. 2 Josh Jackson (Southfield, Mich./Consortium College Prep) could be the best player in the state of Michigan already. No. 4 Jayson Tatum (St. Louis/Chaminade College Prep) is picking up traction as not only an elite player in his class, but in the high school game.

When No. 3 Harry Giles (Winston-Salem, N.C./Wesleyan Christian) returns from a knee injury, he will be in the conversation for the No. 1 spot, which he held at one time.

Another name to keep an eye on is No. 6 V.J. King (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary), who has very good ball skills. No. 5 Dedric Lawson (Memphis, Tenn./Hamilton) has a smooth stroke and great size as a scorer.

At similar points, the Class of 2016 is stronger at the top than the 2014 and 2015 classes.

10 things to know about the 2016 class 

January, 28, 2014
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The updated ESPN 25 for the Class of 2016 is again led by center Thon Maker (Martinsville, Va./Carlisle School), who is the top prospect. Three prospects have joined the rankings: Center Udoka Azubuike (Jacksonville, Fla./Potters House Christian), point guard Derryck Thornton (Chatsworth, Calif./Findlay Prep) and small forward T.J. Leaf (El Cajon, Calif./Foothills Christian), and many of the returning players have continued to improve their games which ultimately makes the 2016 class better as a whole.

Here are 10 things to know about the prospects in the Class of 2016:


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Mustang Madness recap 

January, 13, 2014
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The inaugural Mustang Madness held at the new McCracken County High School in Paducah, Ky., was quite a success. The tournament is run by the same crew that puts together the famous Marshall County Hoopfest.

[+] EnlargeCliff Alexander
AP Photo/Damen Jackson/Triple Play New MediaCliff Alexander is ranked No. 3 in the ESPN 100.
Beast of the East
Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie)
2014, PF/C, 6-foot-9, 240 pounds
Signed with: Kansas
The big fella was his normal, dominant self in Curie’s victory over Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, scoring 25 points. There is no more athletic and productive insider in the country. He has a solid touch and should be able to become an effective face-up player in time. He reminds me of a young Amare Stoudamire.

Best Improvement

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All eyes are on Thon Maker (Martinsville, Va./Carlisle School) every time he takes the court.

Thon Maker
Courtesy of Jerry HoltThon Maker, the No. 1 prospect in the 2016 ESPN 25, is working on improving his post game this season.
That happens when you're ranked as the top prospect in the country.

The No. 1 prospect in the 2016 ESPN 25 has lived up to the billing this season, and he certainly had the look of a top-ranked prospect in a 60-55 loss to Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy on Friday.

The 7-foot Maker flashed all of his skills when he went up against Oak Hill Academy guard/North Carolina State signee Caleb Martin and 2015 ESPN 60 No. 51-ranked player Trevor Manuel.

“Maker is tough,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. “He made a couple of 3s in the first half. He’s highly skilled for his size, obviously. If I coached him, I would like to see him go down low a little more. They say that’s not his game, but he needs to add that to his game if it’s not. He’s highly skilled. I mean, he can put it on the floor, he can shoot it ... and I can’t tell how well he passes it. He’s an awfully good player.”

Maker, who has only been playing basketball since 2010, has immense talent. And he has a road in front of him to be the player he wants to be. His No. 1 ranking isn’t changing how he approaches things.

“It just means that I’ve got to work hard,” Said Maker. “I’ve got to work hard every day and know that there are other people behind me trying to take my spot. At the same time, I have to produce, and that is what I’ve been working on."

“Thon has made tremendous strides since last year,” Carlisle coach Jason Niblett added. “He’s getting more fluid putting the ball on the floor, knocking down jump shots, where last year, he was developing that. He’s getting better every day. Ball-handling can continue to improve, he can continue to improve on his post game... it’s still a work in progress.”

This season, Maker has been working in the post, especially with his mid-range game.
“Well, I’ve figured out my spots and know where I want to catch the ball from,” he said. “Lately, I’ve been working on making plays off of those spots. Mainly from the 4-spot, high post, little bit of the high block [and] the low block.”

As far as Maker’s recruitment goes, it’s a who’s who of suitors.
“Probably the better question is who hasn’t,” Niblett said. “If I got into the list of schools that have offered, we would be here all night.”

One program that will definitely be in the hunt is Duke. Maker visited Durham in October for the Blue Devils’ midnight madness, and it made quite an impression.

“That was a special moment,” said Maker. “I went to Cameron and got to see the crazy fans they are and also got to talk to Coach K a little bit. He’s a wonderful guy. He gave me some advice. You have to work out with the right team, take the right shots with that team, work hard with that team and be around people [who] are going to work hard also so you don’t slack off."

“The fans were chanting my name. It was crazy.”

With a Carlisle schedule that has more than 40 games on the docket, finding the time to take unofficial visits can be a daunting task.
“Nothing [is] scheduled that I’m sure of yet, but it would be something local because we have a lot of games,” he said.

Among the possibilities for unofficial visits during the season are trips to Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgetown.

Along with those four schools, programs such as Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, Indiana and Maryland have stayed in contact with Maker.

While it’s too soon for Maker to list his favorites, the style of play will be a definite factor in his recruitment. Freedom and a quick pace are keys.

“Well, I can basically change the whole situation," he said. "I can go fast paced. I’m able to run down, come off picks and make guys chase me because I’m quick and fast. Mainly people put the big 5s on me so I just have to use my quickness against them.

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