Aussies in NBA: Thon Maker on greatness, competition and Perth

Thon Maker took a long and winding road to the NBA. We all know the story by now. He was introduced to Australia in the eastern suburbs of Perth, recognised as a basketball prodigy in Sydney and the rest was history. A few YouTube videos later, and Maker suddenly became a top 10 draft pick with the Milwaukee Bucks.

If anything else, it’s the journey from Perth that truly is amazing.

(Full disclosure: I was raised 10 minutes away from where Maker went to high school, when living in the west.)

The NBA isn’t just a million miles away back home; it is a dream too ludicrous to even have. But Thon Maker pulled it off.

Maker spoke to The Pick and Roll today and started by talking about how it feels to be in the NBA.

“It’s tough. Sometimes I even forget that I’m in the NBA or I forget that I was drafted straight out of high school.”

For a young man who suddenly has the world at his fingertips, Maker is firmly fixated on his career. Succeeding in the NBA seems too big a distraction to even let the thought of nostalgia enter his mind.

“I love the game so much that I don’t even think about it. I am just playing and not really thinking much about the journey I took.

“All I knew was that I was trying to make it here so I didn’t care. I did whatever it took and I’m finally here.”

And here is he. Maker is slowly seeping into NBA mainstream consciousness, and there is anecdotal evidence everywhere. From his upcoming All-Star weekend appearance to audiences erupting every time he nails a long ball, right down to feature stories from NBA media’s biggest names, Maker has arrived, and his tireless mindset is propelling him forward.

We asked Maker about his mindset and where his inner drive comes from.

“It comes from me. Challenging myself and wanting to be great. I want to be great. I can’t be regular, I don’t want to be regular. I want to be great.”

Talk about shooting for the stars. If Maker wasn’t so genuine, you would think it was all hot air. Yet after speaking to him for just a few minutes, you quickly realise he believes every word. Almost like it is less a dream, but more of a prophecy he is firmly intent on fulfilling.

Maker also spoke about his time in Sudan and how it shaped his life both on and off the court.

“It just builds you. It builds your character. I come from a good family. It builds your character as a person.

“Then on the court, I’m a competitor. Where I’m from, everyone competes. Once you start walking, you’re considered a grown man so you better start looking out for yourself.”

A thirst for competition is a repeated theme every time Maker speaks. Given Kevin Garnett is often brought up as the blueprint for his impending career, it really should not be surprising. The same goes for Maker’s ambition. We asked Maker to describe the player he wishes to become, and the response was emphatic.

“A player who is dominant at both ends of the floor. Not just on offence and not just on defence, but both ends of the floor. Controlling the game and controlling the outcome of the game every time. “

There isn’t any wriggle room here. Maker is dead set on finding greatness in America; the NBA better look out. And while Maker is firmly entrenched into the American lifestyle, he still remains a fond admirer of Australia, especially a certain city out west.

“Perth is a lovely city, man. I think it’s my favourite city in Australia. Sydney may look all glamorous or whatever, but Perth is my favourite city. You’ve got the beach, we used to always go to the beach.

“The food also. The food is really good in Perth. Me and my cousins would drive down to Freo and watch the footy.”

His choice of football teams might need to be addressed (well, in my blue and gold heart anyway).

“I was Eagles at first, but as the years have gone by I was like, you know what, I’m going to change to Fremantle.”

Footy, Freo (Fremantle for the east coasters) and driving down the beach, talk about a quintessential piece of Australiana. The Australian influence remains and it isn’t going anywhere.

Sudan may have been the start of the journey, with Canada and America becoming incubators for success, but Australia was the integral part. The smallest chapter maybe, but the point where potential and opportunity intersected to create something special. The place where Aussie Thon was born and a prophesy created.