Thon Maker Eschews College Basketball - Will Attempt to Enter NBA Draft
What made you decide to enter the 2016 NBA Draft?
When I found out I had the opportunity to enter this year's draft it was a no brainer to me. I've always had the dream of playing in the NBA and I feel that I am ready.
What has the NBA told you about your petition to become draft-eligible this year?
I am awaiting a response from the NBA.
When did you learn that this possibility of becoming draft-eligible in 2016 was realistic?
Right after our season was done. My guardian came and told me that he felt that I was eligible for this year's draft. I was like what? I think it was March 25th. He didn't have to ask me anything. I just said let's go. I was a little upset he didn't tell me earlier, but I understood. He didn't want me feeling pressure this year and playing differently during the season. He just wanted me to enjoy my last year of high school ball, which I did.
You took some visits to college campuses recently, for example Kansas. How much of a role did those play in your decision to enter the draft?
I was excited to visit Kansas, St John's and Indiana. Those three coaches all showed me different approaches to winning and developing. I was really looking forward to my visit to Arizona State and Notre Dame. My guy Brian Merrit is at ASU and I was leaning that way. I loved Coach Hurley's fire. When he got that tech early in the season, I was like I want to play for this guy.'
Notre Dame had my teammate Nikola going there, so I was looking at that because we were really close in one year of playing and winning the OSBA Championship together, and I enjoyed playing on the Under Armour Circuit last year. Coach Brey was very cool when he visited me, and they made an unbelievable run in the tournament. The choices would have been tough.
When I had the chance to enter the Draft, I started of thinking about College vs Pro. The NBA game, talent, spacing, rotations, terminology, clock and practice time is so much more different than college. I watch a lot of ball, both games and practices. I felt that if I could do this full time, it would be great. If I went to college I could not see myself not taking my academics seriously. I would want to take serious classes and do well in them. I would have to split time in my focus. My approach is to always go all out and try to be the best if I'm going to do something.
Are you testing the waters, or will you be hiring an agent officially?
When I get the go ahead from the NBA, I'm all in. If you're doing something you have to be confident in your choice. This process is not a game. I've played with NBA players before and their approach is business like, even though they are having fun out there.
Is there any chance you may withdraw your name from the draft and try again next year if you don't like what you're hearing through the pre-draft process?
As I said, I'm all in.
What is the early feedback you're receiving about your draft range?
I just stated my intentions. When I hire my agent, I will rely on their feedback about my draft range.
How important is it for you to be picked as early as possible in the draft?
It's more important for me to be picked where I fit. When I'm on an NBA team I'm going to get my apartment five to ten mins walking distance to the practice facility. I'm going to live in the gym. I'm just ready to go to work every day. I want to be picked early, but I also want to go where it is a good fit.
What is your plan for the next three months to get ready for draft day?
I'm going to keep working on my body. I really have to define my areas where I feel I can help a team win. Sometimes in a high school game you have to adjust based on the level of talent you have on the floor. In the NBA, everybody is talented. Teams want to win, so you have to show your talent and potential.
Why did you decide to withdraw from the Nike Hoop Summit, considering the amount of NBA talent evaluators that will be in attendance?
I was really attending the Nike Hoop Summit to help the World Team continue their winning streak. I just came from playing a 43 game high school season, where we played the toughest schedule in the nation. The Grind Session where we played this year had our team playing Oak Hill, Findlay, Huntington, API, Prolific Prep, Hillcrest, Potter House and many more. We traveled to 13 or 14 states and played top players like Deandre Ayton, Udoka Azubuike, Billy Preston, Trevon Duval, Josh Jackson, Terrance Ferguson, Miles Bridges and many more. It's too much to write, but the Grind Session circuit was tough. I'm pretty banged up. Once I decided that I would declare for the Draft, I felt my preparation was more important. I will have more than enough opportunities to be in front of those very same scouts during the Draft process.
How much of that had to do with your experience at last year's Hoop Summit?
Last year's experience was great from a learning perspective. It was one of the first times that I was not the focus on a team. I only played 14 minutes, but I felt my 10 rebounds helped us win. I think I will be evaluated on my body of work. There is enough video out there to go beyond the mixtape guys. If you were to look at my play head to head against Skal Labissiere at the NBPA Top 100 camp, there would be a whole different impression than the Hoop Summit. At the NBPA Top 100 camp, I was able to work with NBA coaches and former NBA players. They were able to read who I was and put me in a position to be successful. I had the same success in Treviso with the Adidas EuroCamp and at the NBA Basketball Without Borders Americas and in Toronto. At the Hoop Summit this year, I feel I would have been that guy. I think Coach Rana had a feel for me after watching me over this past year. I was one of the younger guys last year.
I'm disappointed to not be going, but I have to prioritize. I think the most important thing is that we won the game last year, and I hope we have the same level of success this year. I think more people have formed opinions based on the Hoop Summit, mixtapes, or a game where they saw me after playing four games in six days across three states. For me I feel every experience brings growth. I remember watching an old playoff game when Kobe had all those airballs against Utah. Now look at his body of work.
You haven't had a great deal of opportunity to show yourself in front of NBA decision makers, since most of the events you've played at were off limits to scouts due to the age limit. The ones you were able to play in that they attended were the Basketball Without Borders in Toronto, the Hoop Summit in Portland last year, and the adidas EuroCamp. Do you think they've been able to see the best of what you have to offer as a prospect, or are there specific things you can show them in the pre-draft process that might change their perception about you?
NBA scouts' perception will always change as you improve, stay the same, or get worse. Look at Steph Curry.
I've only been playing this game seriously since January 28, 2011. I still have my train pass to my first practice at Next Level Basketball Australia. The sky is the limit on what I can become and what I can do. In the league you have access 24/7 to the best teachers in the world. All you have to do is listen and work and live in the gym. My routine will be the same everyday no matter the day. Look at Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler. That's just work. Even look at Kobe from when he first got to the league to now. You have to work and love it.
What are your plans in regard to the NBA Combine? Will you participate if invited?
No question. I'm there if I get invited.
Will you be attending the BioSteel High School All-Canadian Game and Practice?
I am headed to begin my workouts with Drew [Hanlen] this week. I hope to be back in time for the game.
Considering the direction the NBA is heading in, with the increasing emphasis on perimeter shooting, how important will it be for you to shoot the ball well in workouts to show teams what your role could be for them?
Shooting the ball well is not as important as how you shoot the ball. If I make 1000 game shots a day for the next five years, I'll be a great shooter. My mechanics have to be sound. My footwork and balance has to be sound.
With that in mind, what kind of a shooter are you right now?
That is a strength of mine. My mindset is that everything is going in. I look at Kristaps Porzingis and I think about how he is used in the NBA. I can do that. He is a mobile big.
If you put me in a wide pin down, Iverson cut, stagger double, horns action, or any pinch post action I can score or help my team score. I can hit the trailing three or pick and pop off the ball reversal. I shot a little over 90% from the line over the past two seasons. That's with going to the line about 8 times per game. Making shots consistently in the future won't be a problem. If you consistently work at something with a purpose, you can perfect it.
What else can you bring a NBA team right now?
I like to win so I work hard. I come from a winning culture. On my AI Prep team Coach Lesovsky talks about winning habits all the time. Even when you lose, you want to have played with winning habits. My guardian has been in my head about winning in the classroom and on the court from our first practice with NLBA in Australia.
On the court, defensively I can hard hedge, weak, or ice pick and rolls very well. I've picked up some of these NBA terminology from our pro coach Chris Thomas who was coaching in the NBA for a while. It helps me in learning how to guard multiple positions. Offensively I can stretch the floor and I can beat most bigs down the floor. I've always run the floor hard because it helps us to be able to score early in transition or get me in a mismatch situation.
How ready are you to contribute starting next season?
That's a hard question. If I'm playing behind LaMarcus Aldridge or Blake Griffin, my opportunity is limited to spot minutes because those guys have experience and are allstars. If I go to a team where I'm needed I'll be ready from day one.
What kind of player will you be 3-5 years from now?
I see myself more like KG on the blocks, but also being able to be used in multiple perimeter based actions. I see myself quarterbacking our defense and being a mismatch on offense.
For me, I also have to be talking about making a run at an NBA championship or going deep into the playoffs. I still remember the feeling of winning the 8th grade AAU Nationals with DunkDog, winning the State Championship with Carlisle high school, and winning the OSBA Canadian Championship with AI Prep. Those were better than all the MVPs, rankings, or awards I've won. 3-5 years of doing what you love? How can't you be great.