Fourteen years ago, Thon Maker fled Sudan’s civil war, finding a new home in Australia. On Thursday night, the intriguing 7’2 prospect found yet another new home, in Milwaukee with the NBA’s Bucks.
While many had felt that Maker might drop in the draft due to concerns about the legitimacy of his age, the Bucks decided that the rewards far outweighed the risk, and selected Maker with the No. 10 overall pick.
“When I walked past most of the guys in the green room, some of the guys looked at me sideways,” said Maker. “Some of the guys I already knew from high school, so we were like friends. So, they were happy and some guys gave me dap. And other guys were like, it should be them. I don’t know, if I were in that situation, I would have been like, congrats, you know, you’ve made a step. Now go make a name for yourself. Yeah.”
Milwaukee are hoping to strike gold for the second time on an unknown prospect. In 2013, the Bucks swung for the fence with another intriguing player with tremendous upside: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Maker and the Greek Freak will make for a fascinating duo. Both are long and athletic, and will be a match-up nightmare for opposition defenses. Maker says he will pick Antetokounmpo’s brain about the keys to success in the NBA given their similar paths to the big league.
“Just first, how he jumped from that high, like when he first got drafted, everybody was like, oh, he’s too skinny, he’s this and that, he’s not going to do this, and now everybody is looking at him like, oh, he’s next,” Maker said.
“He’s scary with what he can do with that length. Just picking his mind about what he did to push him that high.”
Maker did not play in college but was ruled eligible for the draft by the NBA. Initial mock drafts had Maker going anywhere from late first-round to as low as mid-second. Even on Thursday morning, some experts believed that the controversy surrounding his age (he is listed as 19 years old, but some reports have said he is anywhere from 21 to 24 years old) would deter teams from taking him in the first round at all. The Bucks were convinced of his upside, though.
“It [talk abut his age] did get to me in terms of me hearing about it, but it didn’t get to me personally because if it were true, I’d probably be like sideways about it, but it’s not true, so I’m comfortable,” Maker said shortly after being drafted.
In the evolving NBA the question remains: What position will the multi-faceted Maker end up playing? That’s obviously for Jason Kidd to decide, but Maker said that he’ll bring a lot to the table for the upstart Bucks.
“As a basketball player, length, obviously, joining with the rest of the guys that already have that length, it’s going to be scary,” he said. “Just — oh, man. Being able to shoot the ball, spread the floor a little bit and take the pressure off the bigs, just competing nonstop at all times, rebounding, blocking shots, being able to pass. It’s a lot of value.