NCB On The Trail: Thon Maker

While it might not have been the clear-cut announcement some were hoping for, Wednesday morning brought the next step in Thon Maker’s recruitment.

The elite high school prospect announced on Twitter that he was “on track to graduate this year” -- meaning he’s moving forward with the plan to reclassify from 2016 into the senior class.

Maker was one of the top prospects in the junior class, but the possibility of reclassifying has been a major story on the recruiting circuit for the past several months. Ed Smith, Maker’s guardian, came out multiple times throughout the process and said the plan was for Maker to reclassify and graduate high school in the spring.

When college coaches run out of good options in the senior class, they are forced to get creative.

They can mine the junior-college market, explore immediately-eligible transfers or look for overseas prospects who can make an impact.

Another increasingly popular strategy in recent years has been to look for juniors open to the idea of reclassifying, heading to college a year earlier than planned.

Top prospects such as Andre Drummond, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Noah Vonleh are just a few of the most recent examples.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The 17th annual National Prep School Invitational spanned the course of four days and included more than 30 games of action. Here are some of the most notable storylines:

1. Rest easy, Ohio State fans:

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What do Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, Michigan State, Connecticut, Syracuse, Michigan, Ohio State, Louisville and North Carolina State have in common?

Yes, they’re all among the most prestigious college basketball programs in the country, but they’re also among the programs battling it out for the 10 remaining prospects left available in the ESPN 100, eight of whom are among the top 12 ranked players in the country.

They’re not alone either as Mississippi State, California, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, UNLV, Iowa State, St. John’s, Arkansas, Missouri, Ole Miss and Memphis are chasing prospects from the very same group.

The supply doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting the demand, and with literally every prospect in the bottom half of the ESPN 100 already off the board, the simple truth is that the programs that miss on these prospects will be left without many good options.

Kentucky is bound to get a couple more, and most likely Kansas too, but for some elite programs, the potential of coming up empty is especially daunting:

North Carolina

The Tar Heels own only one commitment, ESPN 100 power forward Luke Maye (No. 95). He plans to walk on next season and consequently didn’t sign a national letter of intent. Coach Roy Williams is still in the market for both Jaylen Brown (No. 2) and Brandon Ingram (No. 12), and with virtually the entire core of this year’s rotation expected to return, either could push North Carolina among the top programs in the country next year. That’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario isn’t just that they miss out on both, but that their lack of quality contingency plans becomes particularly costly should freshman Justin Jackson opt for a jump to the NBA. Worse yet, should the academic scandal and NCAA investigation motivate Marcus Paige and/or Kennedy Meeks to consider such a move, suddenly things would look very bleak for the Tar Heels.

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When Kentucky landed a commitment from Tai Wynyard last week, it was met with mostly shrugs.

[+] EnlargeKansas/Temple
John Geliebter/USA TODAY SportsSviatoslav Mykhailiuk is coming off the bench at Kansas, and several other international players are vying to become impact players at the college level.
After all, not many people on American soil had seen the New Zealand native. At least Wynyard had gone on a visit tour of Kentucky, Villanova and Texas, so he wasn’t a complete unknown.

Take Kansas freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk or Gonzaga freshman Domantas Sabonis, for example. They were McDonald’s All American-caliber players according to scouts, but nobody really knew what to expect when they arrived on campus. Moreover, recruitniks and analysts were left scrambling to find information on the players.

International prospects always bring intrigue – primarily because not much is known about them. There are the short YouTube videos and the stat lines from various FIBA and international competitions. Even the coaches recruiting the player have sometimes only seen the player live one time. As a result, it’s a complete mystery how the player will respond to the American style of basketball.

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The big news of the day didn’t necessarily happen on the court, but was instead a confirmation of Jeff Borzello’s report from last week as both Thon Maker and his guardian Ed Smith acknowledged a move to the class of 2015 was possible, and could potentially become official in the coming weeks.

Kentucky and Kansas are perceived to be the frontrunners for Maker’s services and John Calipari was front and center for Orangville’s (Canada) game. While Duke, UCLA, Missouri, and Indiana could all reportedly be in the mix as well, the potential still exists that Maker could bypass college altogether, moving back to 2015 only as a precursor to a post-graduate year before making an immediate jump to the 2016 NBA Draft.

As for his performance on the floor, Maker racked up 23 points and 11 rebounds but was largely not involved in the offense until the final minutes of the game. While his lack of touches never impacted his motor -- he ran the floor beautifully and rebounded out of his area all game -- he did force some things off the dribble at times, turning it over eight times as a result. Regardless of any inconsistencies in his performance, Maker’s sheer talent is downright staggering and almost immediately apparent even to an untrained eye.

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Recruiting Roundtable: Hoophall Classic preview 

January, 15, 2015
Jan 15

The Hoophall Classic, a five-day event that features some of the nation's best high school teams and prospects, begins Thursday in Springfield, Massachusetts. Our experts discuss the biggest storylines heading into the action.

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Thon Maker's next move

January, 14, 2015
Jan 14
[+] EnlargeThon Maker
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty ImagesThon Maker was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in 2016 before moving to Athlete Institute in Canada.
Four countries, three high schools, three AAU circuits.

Thon Maker, a 17-year-old 7-footer, is the vagabond of elite high school basketball.

South Sudan, Australia, soccer, basketball, school in Louisiana, school in Virginia, school in Canada. Just going through the bullet points is exhausting -- and that's without even mentioning Maker's unique talents and enormous potential.

Maker is the most intriguing prospect in high school basketball. He would be in the mix for the No. 1 spot in his class if he wasn't in Canada, but that's not what has attracted so much attention. It's the YouTube videos, the endless storylines -- and the comparisons to a number of NBA stars haven't hurt.

The chatter surrounding him has shown no signs of slowing down, either.

"It's the unknown that scares people," said Ed Smith, Maker's guardian.

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Kansas finally got on the board in the 2015 class Thursday, when five-star forward Carlton Bragg announced his commitment to the Jayhawks (after initially saying Kentucky).

There probably wasn’t any real concern in Lawrence about the lack of commitments in the senior class, but there is a segment of the Jayhawks fan base that breathed a slight sigh of relief late last week.

Now, where does Kansas go from here?

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LOS ANGELES -- We attended the Jordan Take Flight Challenge at the Jordan Hanger in Los Angeles, and here's what we saw.

1. DeAndre Ayton and Thon Maker are arguably two of the top 10 prospects in all of high school basketball and they impact the game in different ways. Ayton (No. 1 in the ESPN 25) is a traditional post player who snags rebounds, blocks shots displaying tremendous timing, and he can finish in transition like an Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) clone. Meanwhile, Maker is a hybrid 4-man who handles the ball extraordinarily well and his passing can be pin-point. On the other hand, Ayton needs to continue to refine his budding inside-out skills; Maker needs to get stronger while attacking the rim and rebounding in traffic.

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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 “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.

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:

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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.


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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Five takeaways from Adidas Nations 

August, 6, 2014
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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