Thon Maker: Bucks Rookie Becomes the First High School Player to be drafted into the NBA Within the Age Limit

By David Cordova

What is a phenom? Google the definition and you will get the sentence, “A person who is outstandingly talented.” That is one word that describes Thon Maker. Over the last couple of years, he has been one of the most sought after high school players in the country that possessed high-level talent.

This past June, the 7-1 Sudanese-born forward ended up being selected as the No. 10 draft pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2016 NBA Draft. The interesting part of the story is that he was able to reach the ultimate level of the game without ever entering college. In 2005, David Stern, then the NBA commissioner, instituted a rule that players must be nineteen years old in order to enter the draft.

The rule in question was made by Stern in order to keep the NBA’s general managers and scouts away from high school gyms because of many failures that had taken place in past years. There were success stories such as Bill Willoughby, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James, Amar’e Stoudamire and Dwight Howard. But then there were failures such as Korleone Young and Lenny Cooke and many others that went undrafted or were draft picks who had short-lived careers.

Therefore, the rule is that all players must be 19 years of age within the calendar year of the draft. For those who are not international players, (i.e. born outside of the United States), they must be one year removed from their high school class, which means that it is best that prospective players endure one year of college basketball, or, as a few have done recently, decide to go play overseas in places like Europe, in preparation for the NBA Draft.

Maker, who was born in February 1997, was exempt from the “one year removed from high school rule,” due to the fact that he attended Athlete Institute, a prep school aligned with the Orangeville District Secondary School, which is also known as Orangeville Prep, located in Orangeville, Ontario, Canada, which in turn meant that he was an international prospect.

Although he had offers from colleges such as Arizona State, UNLV, St. John’s, Kansas, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida State to name a few, he decided to make his career choice on April 3, 2016, when he announced his decision to enter the draft.

In the end, everything worked out well as Maker ended up a lottery pick, making him the first high school player to be drafted into the NBA in eleven years. In 2005, the last draft to have high school players be drafted, there were nine players who were taken. Among those who were drafted that are still in the NBA are: Monta Ellis (Indiana Pacers), C.J. Miles (Indiana Pacers), Gerald Green (Boston Celtics), Louis Williams (Los Angeles Lakers) and Amir Johnson (Boston Celtics).

Since being drafted by the Bucks, Maker has made plenty of waves. In the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, he averaged 14.2 points and 9.6 rebounds in five games. Maker comes to a young team that went 33-49 in the 2015-16 season and has plenty of young players such as Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton, Greg Monroe, Miles Plumlee, John Henson, Giannis Antentokoumpo and Rashad Vaughn, all of whom are in their twenties.

With the Bucks being such a young team and him only being a rookie, there is a chance that his skills will develop through time and hard work. But there are two main questions that have yet to be answered: Has he started a trend in using his age rule to his advantage? And, will there be more kids from Canada that are as old as he going to follow the same route in forgoing college to the ultimate level of basketball?

Again, only time will tell. For right now, the world will have to see how Thon Maker progresses and then say if him going into the draft was a risk or reward. With his tremendous skill set, and ability to put the ball on the floor and the fact that he is able to shoot from long range, there’s no telling how big of an impact the rookie will make.

Here’s a Q & A session with Thon Maker from August 2015 as he competed at the Under Armour Elite 24 in anticipation of his upcoming senior year of high school, just eight months before entered the NBA Draft:

 Q: How long have you been playing ball?

A: Going on six years.

Q: When did you first start taking ball seriously?

A: Around 2010.

Q: What drives you tot be successful in the game of basketball?

A: I just gotta work, not take anything for granted. And know that nothing is given and that I have to work for everything. And hope that everything pans out.

Q: How do you feel about the level of talent in Canada vs. the level of talented in the United States?

A: Canada, it’s not fair to compare them because Canada is coming up and the basketball is coming up really fast and it’s doing really good and the States, the talent level is there and teams and players are able to get together a lot. Good players. It’s hard to match that, but then Canada is coming up, like I said.

Q: How did you like your summer so far on the Under Armour circuit? (Maker was then playing for Canada Elite in the Under Armour Association, where he led them to the title game after averaging 16.5 points & 11.8 rebounds at the UAA Finals in Suwanee, Georgia).

A: It was good, I had a whole lot of fun, that whole tournament, the whole Under Armour league is making a case, so it was pretty good.

Q: What’s next in the future for Thon Maker?

A: I got school, I gotta finish out the summer and go back to school.

Highlights of Thon Maker:

Courtesy of Elite Mixtapes.

Courtesy of BallislifeEast.

Courtesy of Courtside Films.

Courtesy of Courtside Films.

Courtesy of The Basketball Diary.

Courtesy of Hoop Mixtape.

Courtesy of CityLeagueHoopsTV.

Courtesy of OnPointBasketball.

Courtesy of Northpole Hoops.

Courtesy of OnPointBasketball.

Courtesy of GD’s Latest Highlights.

Courtesy of Fox Sports.

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