Thon Maker, the 7-foot Sudanese basketball phenom trying to jump straight from high school to the NBA, has officially been cleared for the 2016 NBA Draft, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford.
Maker will become the first player to turn pro straight from high school since the NBA banned the prep-to-pro rule starting with the 2006 draft. The NBA’s decision also likely sets a new precedent for top high school talent who have no interest in going to college.
Maker is currently enrolled at Orangeville Prep in Ontario, and announced in early April that he planned to declare for the draft. Under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, a player is eligible for the draft only if he is 19 and at least one year removed from high school. Maker turned 19 in February and successfully argued that he was actually a member of the class 2015 and is currently doing a “post-grad” year at Orangeville.
The NBA appears to have bought his argument, and it could mean that future blue chip high school players will go down a similar route, opting for a fifth year of high school as a post-grad at a prep school instead of at least one year in the NCAA.
As SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell noted, the NBA’s ruling on Maker should affect the decision-making process of Jonathan Isaac, a 5-star high school recruit in a similar position.
Since the NBA established the one-and-done rule in 2005, we have seen outliers opt out of college for one year before declaring for the draft. Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay both went overseas for one year instead of playing college basketball. The precedent set by Maker could pave an even more desirable path for blue chip prospects — now players who don’t want to play college basketball will not even need to spend a year abroad before they go to the league.
The argument against the post-grad option will likely be that NCAA basketball, even if for just one year, is still the best showcase available to prove to NBA scouts that a player is NBA ready. And, one could argue that the only distinguishing factor between a post-grad year and one year at a top college basketball program (both are effectively basketball gap years) is the quality of the college coaches. By that logic, it still makes more sense to go to the NCAA.
But Maker is a unique case, and scouts are mixed on his talent. He rose to internet prominence with a viral mixtape, but he has struggled in the few elite high-school camps he has attended. According to DraftExpress, he is currently the 41st-ranked prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Whether or not Maker pans out may ultimately be irrelevant. For now, he could mark the beginning of a whole new era of post-grad-to-pro.