Thon Maker on Simmons, recruitment and going home to Australia

18-year old Australian-Sudanese basketball phenom, Thon Maker made his exclusive debut as a blogger on Fox Sports yesterday. The young player gave his take on a host of topics, ranging from his game development, thoughts on fellow Australian Ben Simmons' college season, his college recruitment to getting back home down under.

Of Ben Simmons' college season so far

The LSU Tigers' latest game resulted in a 71-77 loss against Wake Forest, with Ben Simmons scoring 21 points on 5 of 8 attempts, 11 made free throws, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal (box score). LSU is currently 7-5 for the season. Maker expresses confidence in Simmons' ability to get over his marked reticence towards shooting and lead his team towards success.

"Ben’s team, LSU, is not winning much now, so the same areas of his game that needed improvement in high school are now front page news. It’s a long season and I’m sure he will get better in those areas and lead them to the tournament. That’s what winners do," Maker affirmed.

"When he gets to the NBA he will have time to work on his shot and getting better at NBA defensive rotations. Right now, he is rebounding and hitting his teammates well when pushing the ball. He just has to start trusting his shot more and be willing to miss shots to make shots, in my opinion."

Simmons is not the next LeBron

We always project upcoming talent by casting them against the mould of players we know, and creating analogies. The same goes with Ben Simmons, whose size and passing skills have gotten him frequent comparisons with a certain power forward in the NBA. Maker however, prefers another approach.

There are a lot of people knocking him because of the hype that the media has created, by calling him the next LeBron. He is not the next LeBron, and I am not the next Kevin Durant. My guardian, coach Smith, always says to be the ‘first you’; not the next someone.

Which colleges are pursuing Maker right now?

Maker has confirmed that five schools are currently putting in the recruiting legwork: Arizona State, Kansas, Notre Dame, Indiana and St Johns. It's uncertain if this defines an increased level of interest over the rest, but he expressed interest in visiting the first three "right now", while his coach works on the remainder.

Two other institutes, UNLV and Oregon were also mentioned, but were described as being "constant but in a different way".

What does Maker look for in a college program?

The youthful phenom indicated that team rosters will be a factor in his choice of college. The departure of players who leave for NBA pastures, could dictate the kind of role Maker has. The loss of a skilled big within the program for example, could leave suitably-sized shoes (and minutes) for Maker to fill.

Maker also has his own thoughts on self-development, and wants to enter an institution that can help him best prepare for the NBA.

"I pride myself in getting stops and locking guys up, but I don’t want to just be a one way player."

While the 7-foot center prides himself on defense, his focus is to tweak and expand his current game, and not play out of position. "I also want to be at a program that will not try to redefine my game but to add to my existing skill-set, and get me ready for the NBA," Maker wrote. "The way the league is now, I think I’m a big who can play in a small ball line-up."

Discussion earlier in the year cast doubts on his size and weight, and debate was made about whether he should play as a wing player instead of a big man. Maker looks like he is confirming his stand on the topic moving forward, even when his road to the NBA begins.

The way he plays

During an earlier interview in May, Maker talked about his game as a big man, and how his speed (and three-point shot) works against the defense.

“I try to be myself,” Thon says humbly. “I’m a mover. I like to make the defense chase me and operate off of that, then get to my spots — the elbow, the high post. But mainly have the defense chase me, so I can use my speed and quickness against them.”

“If you end up in a place where you catch the ball behind the three and the defense sags off, it’ll make it hard for the whole team to get any good looks,” Thon says. “You see it with a lot of bigs, guys my height, they can’t score it and end up just looking for a spot to pass it to. I rather have those skills so they really have to respect me and come and guard me, leave space behind them so guys can cut and I can pass it to. Gotta have the skills down pat.”

On getting home to Australia

Maker also mentioned his return to Australia earlier this year.

"I was in Melbourne and it was great," Maker wrote. "I prefer Perth and Sydney because of the weather but Melbourne was cool."

(But Melbourne has lovely weather too! Sometimes.) Jest aside, you can feel the fondness Maker holds for Australia, and his longing for all the little things that make up home.

"Really, I love getting back to Australia.

Once you travel a lot you realise how blessed it is to have a place like Australia to call home. I’m not knocking all the great places I have been, and I’m sure home is home for most people, but the pace, the food (meat pies with tomato sauce, rotisserie chicken, or some fish ‘n chips), family, weather, beaches, and most everything else is all good.

I try to get back every year but it is hard with basketball all year round."

Hopefully, we'll see Thon Maker back home soon.

For more insights on Thon Maker's favourite soccer team, the move to Canada and more, do check out Thon's original entry at Fox Sports Australia.