NCB On The Trail: Thon Maker

#AskCoachB: Sweet '16

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
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.
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
Jan 13
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.

Maker, Adebayo star in John Lucas camp 

September, 30, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The John Lucas Midwest Elite camp attracts many of the top underclassmen in the country. The camp’s focus is on skill development -- the players go through various stations designed to help improve different parts of their game as well as compete in games. Here’s a look at who stood out:

Best Pure Scorers

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Five names to know in ESPN 25 

September, 24, 2013

The Class of 2016 has a real chance to be one of the best classes in the last decade because of the sheer number of high-impact prospects. There are players in this group who are game-changers now and who have barely scratched the surface of their potential. Here's a look at five members of the latest ESPN 25 who performed well against older competition this summer.

Thon Maker (Carlisle School/Martinsville, Va.)

Maker has a chance to be really special because of his rare combination of enormous height (7-feet), length and advanced skill. He handles the ball and shoots it with finesse, and on the other end, he rebounds above the crowd and blocks shots at an elite level. Maker has a Kevin Garnett-like body and better skills at the same stage but his heart and toughness are yet to be determined. How his body fills out and how he continues to approach the game will determine how far he goes. He played on the 17-and-under EYBL circuit and performed extremely well.

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Ten things to know about 2016 ESPN 25 

September, 24, 2013

The Class of 2016 is led by the super-talented trio of C Thon Maker, SF Josh Jackson and PF Harry Giles, giving this group an opportunity to be versatile and deep at a variety of positions.

Here are 10 things to know about the ESPN 25 Class of 2016, a small number of prospects who possess big-time potential.

1. Serious upside
The Class of 2016 first and foremost could be better than the Classes of 2014 and 2015. The early report card is tremendous not only for the top 25, but from reports coming in from around the country about players who have yet to be evaluated and added to the rankings when they are extended to 60 then 100. The overall talent and depth and the number of potential NBA players could be the difference.

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Notebook: Big weekend in Aggieland 

September, 13, 2013
Who’s that guy headed to Xavier? Buffalo? They landed a top-100 player? Plus who’s spending the weekend in College Station? All this and more as we empty the notebook.

Hanging with Johnny Football

[+] EnlargeJustise Winslow
Chris Williams/Icon SMIESPN 100 wing Justise Winslow is looking to visit Texas A&M this weekend and Florida next weekend.
The biggest football extravaganza this weekend takes us to College Station, Texas, where Johnny Football faces the best professional college team in the country, Alabama. Can you imagine how many recruits requested a campus visit that weekend?

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Elite 24 lives up to its name

August, 23, 2013
Emmanuel MudiayKelly Kline/Under ArmourThe Under Armour Elite 24 has always had top-level talent and this weekend's edition is no different, as ESPN 100 No. 5 player Emmanuel Mudiay is part of star-studded cast.
BROOKLYN, NY -- The 8th annual Under Armour Elite 24 game and dunk/skills competition will feature some of the nation's most outstanding basketball prospects. Previous games included top prep players such as Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats), Brandon Jennings (Detroit Pistons), Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans) and Lance Stephenson (Indiana Pacers) participated in this famed event.

This two-day event will take place at the Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park under The Brooklyn Bridge.

Catch all the action live on ESPNU, with the Dunk and Skills competition Friday at 7pm ET and the Elite 24 game Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

5 Reasons to watch

1. Stars will be shining bright

The Elite 24 has been known for its star power, and this year's roster is stronger than ever. From top to bottom this game has the best players in the country regardless of class and position. This game has an abundance of gifted prospects, which is going to make it exciting and entertaining to witness as the best high school players go head to head.

The Elite 24 has 13 of the top 25 players in the 2014 ESPN 100 and 5 of the top 10, led by ESPN No. 3 Tyus Jones, No. 5 Emmanuel Mudiay and No. 7 Chris McCullough (Syracuse). The game also has a bevy of underclassman phenoms such as 2015 ESPN 60 prospects No. 1 Ivan Rabb, No. 2 Malik Newman and No. 7 Stephen Zimmermann, along with 2016 ESPN 25 No. 2 Thon Maker.

2. It's all about the matchups

Point guard: Jones vs. Mudiay
Jones is a pure point guard who has tremendous vision and makes great decisions. He is outstanding in handing out the assist in transition or when the game slows down. Mudiay brings outstanding size and athletic ability along with excellent penetration and passing skills. They're not only two of the best players in their respective positions, but two of the best in the nation.

Shooting guards: Rashad Vaughn vs. D'Angelo Russell
All-star games are about scoring points and these two guys do it as well as anyone in the 2014 class. Vaughn is always on the attack and can score with a long jumper or a finish at the rim. Russell is smooth and under control, always ready to launch his deadly long-range jumper. They are two of the best at creating their own shot when there is no offensive flow.

Small forwards: Kelly Oubre vs. Justin Jackson
Teammates for the AAU Houston Hoops, the battle between these two will be electrifying, as both are high-level scorers with great length, athletic ability and skill. Oubre is a dynamic finisher and will mix in some jumpers. Jackson is perhaps the best scoring small forward in the class, possessing touch and instinct from anywhere on the floor. Can Oubre contain Jackson's lethal mid-range jumper?

Power forwards Myles Turner and Zimmermann are two of the best frontcourt players in the country. Turner might be the best shot blocker in his the 2014 class and Zimmermann has tremendous skill for his age.

3. The college game looks better than ever

When this roster of players enters the college game it will bring with it excitement, skill, superior athletic ability and plenty of potential to the college game.

All of the players participating in this year's event are being recruited at the highest level. Turner is the hottest prospect in the nation and Jones being pursued by the likes of Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Some have already made their pledges, with Jackson, Joel Berry and Theo Pinson committed to North Carolina, Romelo Trimble and Dion Wiley pledging with Maryland, Chris Chiozza headed to Florida, McCullough at Syracuse and Russell to Ohio State. For the ones not committed yet their lists have been trimmed down, with college coaches and their fanbases will be closely watching.

The college game will continue to be extremely healthy. This list of prospects will influence and impact their future schools as well as the landscape of college basketball.

4. History lesson

This event has had numerous players go on and be successful in the NBA. When looking at the numbers, 37 Elite 24 players have become first-round NBA draft picks, with 23 ending up in the lottery, over the past eight years.

Three have become no. 1 overall picks: 2011 alum Anthony Bennett, 2009 participant Kyrie Irving and 2008 prospect John Wall. This year participants should add to that impressive list in the near future.

5. Last event of the summer

It seems as if the summer basketball circuit flies by each year, with so many players making a mark by competing and traveling around the country. As the summer season comes to an end, the Elite 24 gives players, college coaches, fans, and postseason all-star game voting members one last opportunity to view some of the best players in the nation on a national stage until their high school seasons begin. Many of the senior prospects will be candidates for postseason accolades and as the fall rolls around, so this makes the Elite 24 a special game.

Elite 24 player breakdowns

August, 22, 2013
Chris McCulloughDustin Snipes/Icon SMISyracuse forward commit Chris McCullough is looking to put his athleticism and skillset on display this weekend at the Under Armour Elite 24 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Breakdowns of the key prospect competing at Under Armour Elite 24 showcase. The 2013 Under Armour Elite 24 will be held at the Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday and Saturday. The game airs live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET Saturday, while the Slam Dunk Contest and Skills Competition will air Friday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU.


Tyus Jones
Point Guard
Apple Valley, Minn./Apple Valley
6-foot-2, 180 pounds
College: Undeclared

Jones is a true point guard that pushes the pace, runs his team and makes great decisions off the ball screen in addition to being an excellent finisher for his size. He has an an all-business approach and is a winner.

NBA Comparisons: Tony Parker/Ray McCallum/John Stockton

Emmanuel Mudiay
Point Guard
Dallas/Prime Prep
6-5, 198
College: Undeclared

Mudiay is a scoring point guard with great size and athletic ability that plays in full-attack mode and can also facilitate. He can take over the game offensively at times and is great at making plays at end-of-clock situations.

NBA Comparison: Tyreke Evans

Chris McCullough
Power Forward
Bronx, N.Y./Brewster Academy
6-9, 210
College: Syracuse

McCullough is a extra-long athletic forward that excels on the break and finishes above the rim on all clear paths. He rebounds and blocks shots to go along with being a capable multiple-position lockdown defender as well with great upside.

NBA Comparison: Taj Gibson

Justin Jackson
Small Forward
Tomball, Texas/Homeschool Christian Youth Association
6-8, 190
College: North Carolina

Jackson is a long and lean wing with a great feel for the game and a sweet shooting stroke and floater that is money from deep in the lane and along the baseline. Capable of scoring big numbers with a scoring package that extends to the arc.

NBA Comparisons: Jeremy Lamb/Tayshaun Prince/Reggie Miller

Myles Turner
Bedford, Texas/Euless Trinity
6-11, 225
College: Undeclared

Turner is a post that is long with a great motor. He has an advanced face-up game with range to the arc. He can also put it on the floor and pass with accuracy in addition to being an elite shot blocker with off-the-charts upside.

NBA Comparisons: Anthony Davis/LaMarcus Aldridge/ Tim Duncan/Theo Ratliff

Rashad Vaughn
Shooting Guard
Golden Valley, Minn./Findlay Prep
6-6, 206
College: Undeclared

Vaughn is an attacking wing that excels on the break and can make scoring plays off the bounce in a variety of ways He is a tough matchup at the shooting guard position because he has range out to the arc and is relentless at attempting to make high-level scoring plays.

NBA Comparisons: Jamal Crawford/Jerry Stackhouse

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Best of the 2013 Nike Peach Jam 

July, 15, 2013
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The Nike Peach Jam, which took place this past Thursday through Sunday, is widely considered the No. 1 high school hoops event of the summer. It pits the best Nike-sponsored travel teams against each other in a winner-take-all tournament format. There are 40 travel teams that compete throughout the spring in the Nike EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League) and the 24 squads with the best records make the Peach Jam, which serves as the EYBL “playoffs.”

This year’s Peach Jam once again showcased an incredible amount of high-level talent and only fueled the debate over the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 between AAU teammates Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander. Here’s a look at the best performances, including the top prospects in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 classes, the guys who played the hardest, the biggest sleepers and more.

Best in 2014

Jahlil Okafor
AP Photo/Damen Jackson via Triple Play New MediaDuke commit Jahlil Okafor is out to show once and for all that he is the nation's top prospect.
Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young)
2014, C, 6-11, 275
Travel Team: Mac Irvin Fire

The reigning No. 1 player in the 2014 class did nothing to take away from that ranking at the Peach Jam. He was dominant at times and averaged almost 17 points and 10 rebounds per game for the tournament. The big fella takes control of the paint offensively and is a future one-and-done player.

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Newman vs. Vaughn caps LeBron camp 

July, 9, 2013
video Editor's note: This is the latest entry in Dave Telep's July Road Trip blog. Throughout the month, Dave will check in each day he's on the road while covering some of the biggest basketball recruiting events in the country. He'll let you know where he's at, offer some highlights of the day and give a quick look at what's next.

LAS VEGAS -- The 2013 LeBron James Skills Academy is over, finishing up with the third and final day on Monday. The narrative of the camp is likely to be the performance of No. 2 rising senior Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie). Once No. 10 recruit Myles Turner (Euless, Texas/Trinity) went down with an injury, there wasn’t a guy here capable of getting in Alexander’s way, much less stopping him.

Many of the big names like North Carolina-bound Justin Jackson (Tomball, Texas/HYCA), 2014 No. 11 Rashad Vaughn (Minneapolis/Findlay Prep) and 2015 No. 2 Malik Newman (Jackson, Miss./Callaway) played to their reputations, but there are always guys who click it up a notch. Two of the players in the latter group were ESPN 100 power forward Angel Delgado (Troy, N.Y./Redemption Christian) and four-star combo guard Robert Johnson (Richmond, Va./Benedictine Prep).

Here are some nuggets from Day 3 at LeBron. On Wednesday, I’ll have an overall look at what I learned from the camp.

[+] EnlargeMalik Newman
AP Photo/Damen Jackson via Triple Play New MediaMalik Newman, the No. 2 player in the ESPN 60, is turning into a dangerous scoring point guard.
Newman vs. Vaughn was fun

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Top players from LeBron camp Day 1 

July, 7, 2013
LAS VEGAS -- Day 1 is in the books at the LeBron James Skills Academy. Saturday was a combination of skill development, competitive drill work and some five-on-five action.

Here’s a look at five players -- two rising seniors, one rising junior and two rising sophomores -- who were especially impressive on Day 1 among the many great prospects at the camp.

Rashad Vaughn (Minneapolis/Robbinsdale Cooper)
2014, SG, 6-foot-6, 200

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Nine events to watch in July 

July, 1, 2013
July is a key month in recruiting as a number of high-profile events give coaches an up-close look at potential targets. Elite recruits will want to put forth their best effort to enhance their chances at garnering offers from college’s elite, while under-the-radar prospects can use the extra exposure to generate new buzz.

Let’s take a look at the best hoops events July has to offer.

[+] EnlargeKevon Looney
Courtesy of NikeBasketball.comKevon Looney and other top recruits have used July events like the LeBron James Skills Academy to improve their recruiting stock.
LeBron James Skills Academy
July 5-9
Where: Las Vegas
Why it’s important: This Nike event allows 80 of the nation’s top high school prospects an opportunity to display their talent in front of media and scouts from every NBA team.

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We’re back with another edition of the #AskCoachB Twitter mailbag. Once again, ESPN National Recruiting Director Paul Biancardi is on hand to answer fans' questions regarding the recently released ESPN player rankings, and other recruiting inquiries.

In this week’s mailbag, we tackle the hotly contested decision to move Cliff Alexander ahead of Tyus Jones, behind top senior recruit Jahlil Okafor in the top three; break down Ohio State’s current four-man class; and discuss UNLV recruit Dwayne Morgan’s drop in the ESPN 100. You can have your recruiting questions answered by Biancardi on Twitter at any time using the hashtag, but only the best questions make this blog.

Now on to your questions.

I love their quartet of committed players because they’re different but all high-level prospects. Keita Bates-Diop has a prototypical small forward body along with great shooting ability, touch and range. And when he’s not facing the basket, he can post you up and get buckets in the low and midpost.

D'Angelo Russell is a finesse scoring guard who can slide over to the point because of his ability to facilitate, utilizing his hoops acumen and vision. He’s already a good 3-point shooter and can get to the rim with ease, but he needs to work on his middle game to complete his game. Jae’Sean Tate is a physically imposing player for his size (6-foot-5, 190 pounds) and is a relentless rebounder and terrific finisher. He’s probably the most physical perimeter player we’ve seen this spring/summer. David Bell, a big man with a lot of upside, rounds out the Buckeyes’ 2014 class.

Karl Towns has extraordinary touch and range as a shooter and he’s an above-average passer -- all that at 7-feet tall. Like most big guys, who often blossom later in their careers, he’ll need extra time to develop. Right now he stands out on offense when facing the basket, but his low-post game is evolving. Towns will have to get his body in optimum physical condition for him to maximize his potential.

As for his future, guys with his combination of size and skill usually don’t stay in college very long. He’ll be at Kentucky in the near future, where he should significantly impact the game whenever he’s on the floor. The only question is, will he impact contests on a consistent basis, or just when he feels like it?

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