7-Footer Headlining 2016 BioSteel All-Canadian Game Is NBA Draft Bound. Raptors Own Top 15 Pick

Is Thon Maker an NBA lottery pick? Tonight’s BioSteel All-Canadian game will be a strong indication.

“Top 10 is a bit much. Top 20 and will probably play a lot next season in the D-League,” one NBA scout told Hoops Hype Canada.

Another NBA official, this time a Director of Scouting added “not sure he’ll ever be a perimeter player in the NBA or has the body that will relish playing through contact in the NBA.”

If Thon Maker is on the cusp of climbing up NBA mock drafts faster then Masai Ujiri gave Anthony Bennett the DJ Jazzy Jeff toss out of Toronto, or Cleveland traded Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota, Maker must DOMINATE tonight’s BioSteel All-Canadian Game. In all honesty, If tonight’s performance is as underwhelming as his AAU teammate Justin Jackson’s post grad year in Canada was, stick a fork in Maker’s green room chances.

Since the Maker draft announcement took Twitter by storm, it’s obvious media in America are still bitter towards Thon dating back to September 2014. That was when his camp pretty much said F*** Y** to the American high school basketball system. Thon trail-blazed his talents to Toronto, Canada. At the time home of back to back first overall NBA draft picks Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins. Maker landed at a prep program run by Athlete Institute playing for Orangeville Prep.

Thon Maker, waiting word from the NBA on his 2016 draft status

ONE STEP BACKWARDS

However growth isn’t always a linear and his time in Canada should always be reenered by the catch phrase “one step backwards, two steps forward.” In year one the move to Canada almost blew up in Thon’s face.

Playing under head coach Larry Blunt, Maker struggled to get acclimated on a Orangeville Prep team filled with D1 prospects including Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray. A team crowded with alpha dogs and to make matters worst, Makers guardian Ed Smith and Jamal’s father Roger Murray were appointed assistants on the Bears coaching staff. With a loaded roster on paper came high expectations. A poor start with mixed results in the States quickly led to friction between Murray & Maker. More so between their camps – guardian and father – who each held a voice in the head coaches ear. A complex coaching scenario for Blunt.

As a result, Murray flourished mean while Maker played some of the most underwhelming basketball of his high school career. Maker looked on the fence with identity, struggling to effectively showcase playing both on the perimeter and low block. Along side Jamal Murray, Maker never got his groove going. It even to take toll on his NBA draft stock. Makers offensive season hit rock bottom at the 2015 BioSteel Game when Maker played 27 minutes, totaling 8 points and a measly 4 rebounds. Struggling to a tune of 2-for-13 from the field. It was the pinnacle of adversity for Thon. Some Maker adversity that many media pundits in America relished. Except adversity that would soon parlay into an eye opening resurgence. Like the late Christian minister Oswald Chamber once said “If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a time of great personal growth ahead.”

TWO STEPS FORWARD

Maker and brother Matur arriving at Athlete Institute in September of 2014.

Maker and brother Matur arriving at Athlete Institute in September of 2014.

During the 2015 off-season Maker played AAU ball on the Under Armor circuit with Canada Elite. Maker would single handedly spearhead Canada Elite 17U to the UAA championship game where they were defeated by Team Charlotte. In ten games with Canada Elite, Maker averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Shooting 49% from the field including a dominating 72% (48-of-66) from inside the arc.

After regaining confidence on the AAU scene, followed by invites to various player camps, Maker decided to remain at Athlete Institute for 2015-16. Making a lateral move within the program and playing ball for head coach Brandon Lesovsky and Athlete Institute. Under Lesovsky Maker playes possessed like a man among boys. Not only in Canada during a season that saw him win an inaugural national prep championship but south of the border too where Thon terrorized opponents averaging close to 30 plus points per game. Literally strangle holding his stock again as one of the top prospects in the entire North American 2016 class.

BATTLE TESTED

There wasn’t a prospect nor high school team on the planet that played a more gruesome schedule this past season then Thon and AI. DICKS National high school champion Oak Hill maybe played the same amount of games but nowhere near the same level of competition. Maker played 40 plus games this season including a whopping 14 weekend trips to the USA. Athlete Institute’s journey included tilts versus Findlay Prep, Oak Hill, Huntington Prep, and Prolific Prep twice among others. Battle tested is an understatement. Maker and his AI squad personified the term ‘soldiers’.

HEAD STRONG

Ask Maker’s teammates and coaches about Thon and they will all rave at the consummate professional he is on and off the court. From skill development to body nourishment Thon’s discipline, not desire, has been his key and will always be key to his NBA destiny. A discipline that gives him a strong shot at landing in the green room along side Jamal Murray on June 23rd.

When NBA brass begin picking Thon’s brain and surveying between his ears and above his neck it only bodes well for his stock. He has Kevin Garnett physical attributes complimented by the personality and grace of a Hakeem Olaujuwon. An area that will only make NBA GM’s and ownership groups in the lottery salivate even more for the 7-footer with a 9-5 standing reach.

READINESS

It’s time for Thon Maker to put his mark on the 2016 NBA draft— a class labeled inferior to next years. A year where outside a pair of prospects the draft is wide open between the three through ten spots. An area where Maker Is likely to be selected when it’s all dad and done.

It starts tonight in Toronto, ON. Home of the 2016 Bio-Steel Al-Canadian game. Expect a prime time performance from Maker dedicated to his critics. Maker must demonstrate to the expected 50 plus NBA front-office personnel in attendance how his game is conducive to the NBA. Especially when he channels his inner Kevin Garnett like more of what we saw in year two. Operating down low is where Thon Maker is at his finest.

Can Thon Maker is develop at a rate like Myles Turner under Frank Vogel, Hassan Whiteside under Erick Spoelstra or say Rudy Gobbert under Quinn Snyder before even ever sniffing the NBA D-League? The talent on the team that drafts him could determine that but what his next coach in the NBA will get is maximum effort on the glass and more then solid help defense from Maker. NBA ready rim protection and shot blocking ability are what he has to offer immediately. When Maker blocked shots versus high school opponents it was comparable to a power hitter in volleyball spiking. Shades of Garnett at Farragut High School in 1995. Sure Maker at 220 lbs will get pushed around sometimes in the association. So did Garnett in his rookie season and other paper thin big man rookies of the past that had lengthy successful careers like Chris Bosh, Marcus Camby and Theo Ratliff.

Can we all agree Thon Maker is your prototypical highly-skilled seven-footer which is a well sought-after commodity in today’s game?

TORONTO?

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri. Raptors are pegged to draft twice in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft.

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri. Raptors are pegged to draft twice in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft.

Biggest question north of the border is not where Thon is getting selected, instead it’s whether the Raptors who are projected to have a top fifteen first round pick in this upcoming draft, would even consider selecting the Sudanese-Australian phenom.

With a front court that suffers from lack of depth and promise at the four spot, even the Lord knows let alone Raptorland, how a second seed in the East Raptors could benefit from Thon.

Attention Raptors GM Masai Ujiri, when the 2016 BioSteel All Canadian game MVP is awarded tonight, you might have found your Maker.

OTHER NEWS ON THON MAKER

Contributor Sonny Bairos is formerly a grassroots basketball analyst with Hoops Hype Canada is now owner of Canadian Ballers a online NCAA scouting subscription service. You can follow him on Twitter at @Cdn_Ballers