A high school basketball player is trying to become the first player to go straight from high school to the NBA in more than ten years, and if he is successful, it could make college less tempting for many of the top players.
On Sunday, Thon Maker, a 7-foot Sudanese prospect who turned 19 in February, announced in a video on Bleacher Report that he is attempting to turn pro. ESPN confirmed the news, and according to David Aldridge of the NBA Network, the league is expected to rule on his eligibility shortly.
If the NBA rules in his favour, it will create a new and potentially more tempting avenue for skipping college before turning pro. Until now, the most common means for skipping college was to play in Europe or Asia for a year, a potentially overwhelming situation for most 18-year-olds. Now, high school kids could simply find a prep school where they could play for one season as a “post-grad” until they are old enough for the NBA. Should Maker be deemed eligible, many top prospects may no longer feel forced to go to college.
Under the current CBA, a player is only eligible for the draft if he is 19 and at least one year removed from high school. Maker is old enough to go pro; his eligibility will ultimately come down to whether or not the NBA buys his argument that he is currently doing a post-grad year and was actually part of the class of 2015.
Maker has spent the past two years enrolled at Orangeville Prep (also called Athlete Institute) in Ontario. In eighth grade, when he arrived in the United States from Australia, he attended Metairie Park Country Day School in Louisiana before spending two years at a high school in Virginia.
Last spring, Maker was reportedly considering reclassifying in order to play college basketball this season. He opted instead to stay at Orangeville Prep to play with his younger brother. Maker has not committed to a college program, though he has reportedly taken an official visit to Kansas and is also considering Arizona State, Notre Dame, UNLV, and Indiana.
Scouts are currently mixed on Maker’s talent. He rose to internet prominence with a viral mixtape, but has struggled in the few elite high school camps he’s attended. Maker is currently the 17th-ranked member of the class of 2016 and, according to DraftExpress, the 44th prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft.
If the NBA rules against his eligibility, however, Maker could still follow in the footsteps of players like Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay who played overseas instead of going to college.
Even if Maker doesn’t pan out to be an All-Star, it will nevertheless be important to see how the NBA rules on his eligibility. Should they allow him to declare for the draft, it will likely set a new precedent for future high school prospects.
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