In the basketball world, there’s always a ‘next big thing.’ Thon Maker fits that label on a couple of levels.
A 7-foot center who’s only a rising sophomore, Maker became a widely known commodity before he hit high school -- an early teen with legit NBA size combined with eye-popping agility tends to command attention. Many are already pegging him as a future No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick.
With a year of high school ball under his belt, Maker’s no longer a precocious curiosity. He’s all over the summer circuit, most recently facing off against top upperclass big men last weekend at the NBA Top 100 Camp in Virginia.
“He played some of the top big men in the country and he did pretty well," said Maker’s guardian, Edward Smith, who guided Maker from soccer to hoops as a 6-foot-8 13-year-old. "I think he’s progressing well. That experience in itself was important for him, to bring his game to a level where he’s ready to compete in that arena.
“He’s making better decisions. He’s finding areas where his game can improve. The thing is, he’s not a typical back-to-the-basket player. He can move. He’s skinny, but he’s wiry strong … He can bench 185 pounds,” Smith added with a laugh.
It goes without saying that Maker’s captured attention from college coaches everywhere. The No. 2 player in 247Sports’ newly released 2016 Top 30, Maker’s attracted attention from recruiters everywhere. Most of the nation’s top programs have expressed interest and many have offered.
He spent his freshman season the Carlisle School in Martinsville, Va., and his guardian lives in suburban Maryland, so he’s been most directly exposed to local programs Maryland and Georgetown.
“He went to Maryland last summer. He stood back to back with Alex Len and he was about his height. ... He’s 7 feet without shoes,” Smith said. “We spoke to coach [Mark] Turgeon about his development of Alex Len. They did a great job of transforming his body when he came in, but still keeping his agility.”
Smith said he and Maker watched several Maryland games last season, and Maker took note of Len’s improvement.
“They did an amazing job with Alex Len, when you look at how well he played in some of those games, like against Mason Plumlee from Duke," Smith said. "They battled and I think Len came out with the upper hand.
“I’m from Maryland so of course we pay attention to them. They have been making a name for themselves and they have the style of play we like.”