Jayhawks secure first official visit from Thon Maker
In what has been a fairly slow and quiet recruitment process, business is about to pick up for Australian sensation Thon Maker, as more details are emerging about his official visit dates and which teams are leading the race to secure his commitment.
As we documented just over a month ago, six schools are recruiting Maker and that hasn’t changed. Arizona State, St John’s, UNLV, Kansas, Indiana and Notre Dame are the programs remaining for Maker to choose from and when asked what he is looking for in a particular school, Thon remained mum and didn’t drop any hints if he was leaning towards a certain team.
"I just have to go to a place where I'm comfortable with my teammates and comfortable with my coaches, and not comfortable as in we're going to take it slow and have fun.” Maker said in an interview with North Pool Hoops (NPH), which was transcribed by SNY.
“We're going to have fun but were going to go hard at all times and find ways to win. We're going to be aggressive in practices and I'm going to have good teammates around. We're going to have great coaches around who are going to prepare me for the NBA.”
Maker has already taken multiple unofficial visits to Indiana, Kansas and St John’s, but the Jayhawks will get the first chance to impress him with an official visit this weekend.
“I have my first official visit ever and this one is to Kansas and then after that, I’ll take a few more visits and then the decision will ready right after March, so that will be in April.” Maker said to NPH. “I’ve taken so many unofficial [visits] because people always told me to take as many as you can just to see a little bit outside of it and then when you take officials, really get an in-depth of the program itself.”
Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports Australia had more on Maker’s visit to Kansas.
The Jayhawks have been “on and off” in the recruiting process, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, who also adds Kansas will have the first chance to make a “strong opening pitch” on Maker. Apart from Arizona State, the Jayhawks have been keeping the closest tabs on Maker and have kept in constant contact with him, Borzello reports.
One aspect working against Kansas could be their already loaded front court, which would force Maker to fight for minutes; something that could be seen as a positive and a negative. Making Maker earn his minutes and fight his way into the rotation can teach him discipline and it will ensure he is always at the top of his game. Conversely, Maker wants to play immediately and some of the other schools offer him a lot more secured minutes compared to Kansas.
One of those schools is the aforementioned Arizona State.
The Sun Devils “are pursuing Maker harder than any other school,” and Borzello explains how the relationships between Maker, his guardians and the ASU coaching staff could give them a slight advantage in the sweepstakes. “[Brian] Merritt [ASU Assistant Coach] has known Maker and his guardian for several years… When [Bobby] Hurley [ASU Head Coach] hired Merritt, Arizona State immediately became a contender for Maker. Moreover, Maker has known Hurley since he was coaching at Buffalo.”
Along with the long-standing relationships Maker has with ASU personnel, the Sun Devils would clearly use him as their superstar on the court, a big appeal to Maker. With only planning on spending one season in college, Maker will need to make a huge impact to improve his current draft stock, which has him pegged as a late-first rounder. Playing with Arizona State will allow Maker to showcase his talents as a go-to guy and hopefully launch his stock back into the lottery.
An interesting and unheard-of selling point for both Notre Dame and St John’s is their current connections with Under Armour, a sportswear company Maker has preferred throughout his young basketball career. Maker also received an in-home visit from Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey back in September 2015 to reinforce thier interest in the big Aussie.
The Fighting Irish offer Maker the same appeal as the Sun Devils, with departing big man Zach Auguste leaving a void to fill and this would allow Thon to step in and be the showcase of the Notre Dame squad.
St John’s possessing NBA experience on their program with head coach Chris Mullin will be a huge factor in Maker’s decision. Mullin has been a player and general manager at the professional level and with Maker’s primary goal being on the NBA, the tips and tricks of the trade Mullin can provide him is a pitch only the Red Storm can offer him.
One of the programs that have been linked with Maker for a long period of time, Indiana has “slowed down a little bit” on the communication side of things with Thon, Borzello reports. Maker has already made an unofficial visit with the Hoosiers, so he is definitely considering them but with some other schools keeping in touch with Thon more often, it is fair to ask if Indiana has warmed down on Maker.
Finally, UNLV, who were the last school to join the recruiting race, are on the outside looking in. As I wrote in January, Maker told Borzello about the connections he has with the Runnin’ Rebels. “The thing is, [interim] coach [Todd] Simon, I [knew] him before coach [Dave Rice] got fired.” Maker revealed. “I saw him a few times this summer too, we had a tournament in Vegas.” UNLV has made no indication that they will keep Simon as the head coach beyond this season, so the Runnin’ Rebels chances at securing Maker are sketchy.
A common denominator that all six colleges have that appeals to Maker is they all play a fast-tempo style of basketball. Maker is one of the most versatile, athletic and skilled high school big man ever seen, so an up-tempo paced style of play where he has plenty of room to work is definitely something he needs to be the most effective.
In his final Canadian high school game, Maker 27 points, 11 rebounds, seven blocks and three steals, leading 30 to the victory in the inaugural Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association prep title game.
Maker’s talent and potential is no surprise but where he will be playing college basketball next season remains a mystery, even with this latest set of updates.