Thon Maker’s already-curious route to the NBA draft took another turn just before Thursday night’s festivities got underway, according to Sports Illustrated contributor Jake Fischer.
Several teams have entirely ruled Thon Maker out of the first round due to his age. Multiple sources believe Maker to be 21-23, not 19.
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) June 23, 2016
To recap: Maker is a 7-foot-1 center who was born in South Sudan, allegedly in 1997. He escaped that country’s civil war when he was 5, traveling with his younger brother and aunt first to Uganda and then to Perth, Australia. At the age of 14, Maker was discovered while playing soccer by a man named Edward Smith, who previously had helped two other Sudanese immigrants on their path to U.S. college basketball. Maker made his way to the United States, attending two prep schools before settling in Ontario. Things got confusing, however, when Maker announced he was reclassifying to the high school class of 2015, only to later reconsider and say he would remain in the class of 2016.
This would seem to make Maker ineligible for this year’s NBA draft, given that prospects have to be 19 years old and one year removed from high school. However, he petitioned the NBA for entry into this year’s draft, arguing that he had graduated from his prep school in 2015 but chose to remain there for a post-graduate year. The NBA granted him draft eligibility in April.
And now Fischer’s report about Maker’s age only further muddies the issue. Maker first broke out thanks to an intriguing YouTube mix from 2014:
But because Maker didn’t play college basketball, scouts mostly have gone off his summer-league play, where they found holes in his game. Here’s the Undefeated’s Jerry Bembry:
Maker was one of biggest names selected for the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit, but he struggled playing on the same court as Brandon Ingram, Ben Simmons and Skal Labissiere. While his teammate [Jamal] Murray scored 30 points and was the game’s MVP, Maker missed all five of his field goal attempts while playing just 14 minutes. (He did have a game-high 10 rebounds.)
The struggles continued the following weekend in the Biosteel Canadian All-Star game. Murray was again the MVP (29 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists), while Maker missed 11 of his 13 shots and finished with eight points.
Maker did bounce back to be named MVP of the NBPA top 100 camp and he averaged 25 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks last season in Canada. But then he declined to play in five-on-five games at the draft combine, Bembry reports.
“The real problem with Thon Maker? There’s so little to evaluate his ability,” an unnamed NBA scout told Bembry. Add the age concerns, and you have a 7-foot-1 question mark.