Thon Maker, a Sudanese refugee who moved to Australia when he was a young child has announced that he will be declaring for this year’s NBA draft.
The 19-year-old is 216cm tall and will be competing with another Aussie basketball phenom in Ben Simmons who is expected to be the number 1 pick in this year’s draft.
Maker hasn’t exactly had an easy journey to the NBA, escaping a war-torn village in South Sudan when he was five with his aunt and brother, Matur. From there, they were accepted as refugees in Australia where they settled down in Perth.
It wasn’t until he was 13 that Maker actually started playing basketball when he was discovered by Edward Smith who helped young refugees receive opportunities that weren’t always possible.
He then began playing basketball in Sydney before he and Smith, who became his legal guardian, moved to the USA and enrolled him in a high school where Maker dominated.
In 2014, he and his brother moved to Canada where they currently live and enrolled at the Athlete Institute in Mono, Ontario.
The announcement that he would be entering this year’s draft was made with Bleacher Report earlier this morning.
“I’ve always been in motion. Every move I make is to get better,” Make said.
“Opportunity has led me around the world, from South Sudan to Australia, where basketball stole me from my first love. A 13-year-old kid they called ‘long body’, I found my calling.”
“Sacrifice was necessary, leaving my family for a new family. Next stop: the world stage, where the competition got real. My vision became perfectly clear. Then Canada, a place to focus. A place to build my body, and to spend one more year with my brother.”
“Here I am. Still on the move. In pursuit of greatness. I’ll be declaring for the 2016 NBA Draft.”
Originally Maker’s plans were to enter college first, with top basketball schools interested in him including the likes of Arizona State and Kansas.
While Maker has said he wants to enter the draft, the NBA still has to approve his request, however his guardian Edward Smith is pretty confident he meets the criteria.
“We believe that Thon has fulfilled the academic requirements to be eligible for the 2016 draft,” Smith told Bleacher Report. “He will apply for the 2016 NBA draft and await approval from the NBA.”
The NBA draft rules require a player to be 19 year’s old and at least one year out of high school. Considering Maker graduated in May 2015 and the draft is in June, he should be fine.
Maker originally caught the eye of the basketball world after mixtapes of him playing went viral, showing his 216cm figure playing the game like a much smaller guard, earning him comparisons to 2014’s NBA MVP Kevin Durant.
Here’s the infamous “ankle-breaker”:
It’s expected Maker will be a late first round pick, which will guarantee him a contract in the NBA and over $1 million in first year salary.
He would also be an addition to Australia’s arsenal of players in the NBA, with Andrew Bogut currently playing for the reigning champions in the Golden State Warriors as well as Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes, Patty Mills and Joe Ingles all playing good minutes for their teams.
Add to that Dante Exum, who’s currently injured, Cameron Bairstow who was drafted by the Chicago Bulls and Simmons, who’s predicted to be the next big thing in basketball and Australia’s national team starts to look very bright.