Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Class of 2013-16: NBA Comparisons of #1 Recruits!!! (Thon Maker)


Written by: Prospect-Central

Making player comparisons is the nature of the business. The majority of the time these comparisons are way off base, but it's fun none the less. There are many things to take into consideration when comparing high school standouts to NBA stars, but even if they share similarities in their game, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll have the same type of success.

While a players size, handles, jumper, vision, athleticism, strength, work ethic, and even facial features are all used in making comparisons, there's really no concrete way to determine if they'll end up with the same type of NBA career or not. How far these four high school hoopers go in the game of basketball will ultimately be up to their desire and passion, and there's no measuring stick for that.

Since only one of these players is eighteen years old, they obviously have a lot of time to mature physically as well as mentally. With that being said, you should take these comparisons with a grain of salt.

Whether they live up to the hype, or crumble under the pressure, they will certainly have the opportunity to showcase their skills at the highest level. You already know what they say about opinions, but here's Prospect-Central's NBA comparisons for the #1 recruits in the Class of 2013-16. * Below is the NBA comparison for Thon Maker; #1 recruit Class of 2016.

Maker dominated as a freshman for Carlisle School
Thon Maker pf/c / 7'0'' 210 / Martinsville, VA
The one thing about sports, the future can always be bright. As unhealthy as it may sound, there's valid reasons people can't help but to obsess over high school recruits. From a psychological perspective, the anticipation of how good something can become is very intriguing, and there's no limits to our imagination with this unknown. As with many things however, the anticipation of these recruits is sometimes better than the actual final product.

Ultimately no one knows how good the Class of 2016 can become, but it might be the most talented in all of high school. It's certainly shaping out to be a class for the ages, but lets not count our chickens before they hatch. A handful of players could be labeled the #1 freshman in the country, but for the time being there's two hoopers head and shoulders above the rest; Harry Giles, III & Thon Maker.

Harry Giles, III had an exceptional freshman campaign for Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC), helping the Trojans win a state championship while putting up some impressive numbers in the process. Thon Maker on the other hand, has been nothing short of spectacular during his first year of high school basketball. Since Maker was the #1 recruit going into the season, there's no reason not to think he's still deserving of the honor.

When it comes to the combination of size and skill, there might not be another player in all of high school quite like the Sudanese native. Born February 25th, 1997, the newly turned 16-year old was first featured by Prospect-Central back in July of 2011, when he was still living in Australia. Since then, Maker's skills have absolutely flourished, as he's more than lived up to the hype. He currently resides in Martinsville, Virginia, and last month led Carlisle High School to a Division II State Championship.

Before we compare Maker's game to some NBA players, let's take a closer look at his physical attributes first. At 7-feet, 210 pounds, size is clearly not a problem for Thon. Even though he needs to get stronger, his frame seems more than capable of putting on muscle as the years go by. Because his perimeter game is so advanced however, it's not like he needs to turn into a body builder.

Whatever Thon Maker lacks in strength, he definitely makes up for in length. With a ridiculous 7'9'' wingspan, what more needs to be said after that. To put that type of size into perspective, there's only been two players in the history of the NBA who's wingspans have been longer; Manute Bol (8'6'') & Gheorghe Muresan (7'10''). The difference between Maker and these giants though, athleticism and skills.

Despite his size, he's an extremely fluid athlete and runs the floor with ease. With his enormous reach and excellent leaping ability, Maker has a chance to be virtually unstoppable down low. As impressive as that may sound, his perimeter skills are what make him such an intriguing prospect. He can handle the ball like a guard, and his jumper is money from beyond the arc. His back to the basket game might be a work in progress, but there's no ceiling to his potential. In all honesty, I personally have never seen another freshman with the size and skill of Thon Maker.

Because his offensive repertoire is so advanced compared to his size, a person could lose focus on the most important part of his game, defense! As you can well imagine, Maker's an absolute menace when it comes to blocking shots. Not only does he have the athleticism and length to be a rim protector, his timing is quite impressive as well. He doesn't bite on pump fakes, shows a quick 2nd jump, and has the mobility to stay in front of his man. Once he gets stronger, Thon Maker could be a game changer on the defensive side of the ball.

Garnett is easily a first ballot Hall-of-Famer
It's clear Maker has all the physical tools to be an excellent basketball player, but as we all know the mental side of the game is just as important. Because he's only been playing the game for a couple of years, there's definitely some nuances he needs to work on, but as far as his overall demeanor is concerned, you really can't ask for anything more.

He's humble, hard working, motivated, and shows no signs of veering off the path to success. He was also an honor roll student this past semester, which is something that can never be overstated enough. If he continues this blue collar mentality, there's no reason not to think Thon Maker can't reach his ultimate goal, the NBA.

If Thon Maker's future is indeed in the NBA, who are some players he might compare to? We need to find a 7-footer, that has nice handles, solid athleticism, shot blocking capabilities, and can stroke the 3 ball. In other words, good luck with that! I guess Dirk Nowitzki or Pau Gasol might come to mind, but Thon's probably more athletic than these big men.

Please note, by no means am I saying Thon Maker is as good as the players he's being compared to. Since he's only a freshman in high school, it would be ridiculous to think otherwise. These are just some players he shares similarities with as far as size, and what he MIGHT project to down the line.

Of all the #1 recruits in high school, Thon Maker's NBA comparison was probably the easiest to make. Not only that, they were the best NBA players used between the four of them. If these comparisons are any indication of the type of player he can become, then Thon Maker could be destined for greatness. As I stated before, he's obviously not in the same class as these NBA all-stars, but that doesn't mean they don't share similarities. With that being said, there was really only two players considered for the selection; Kevin Garnett & Kevin Durant.

At 6-foot-11, 250 pounds, with a 7'4'' wingspan and 36-inch vertical leap, Kevin Garnett was born to play basketball. He's clearly heavier than Thon, but was roughly 220 pounds when he entered the league in 1995. Even though he's more polished than the freshman, from a size perspective they're very similar. It's hard to compare a future Hall-of-Famer to a 16-year old, but Maker's game mimics Garnett's to some degree.

Some similarities between the two players; a lethal mid-range jump shot, solid athleticism, excellent rebounding, shot blocking prowess, and overall high energy level. Thon's not as physical as Garnett was in high school, but then again not many players are. No one can touch Garnett's competitive spirit either, so I won't even try to compare that attribute. Be that as it may, if there wasn't a one-and-done rule in today's NBA, Maker could have a chance to enter the league straight out of high school, just like Garnett.

As great as Kevin Garnett has been throughout his 18 years in the NBA, Kevin Durant is on pace to having an even better career. At 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, and a 33-inch vertical leap, Durant might not be the most physically intimidating player, but there's no one outside of LeBron James with the same size and skill level.

In Durant's case, I'm not referring to strength when talking about size, but rather length. Like Thon Maker, Durant has an enormous 7'5'' wingspan and definitely knows how to use it. For those of you really caught up in the fact Maker needs to gain some weight, you should note that Kevin Durant was roughly 205 pounds coming out of high school.

Now obviously it would be blasphemous to consider Thon Maker in the same class as one of the best players in the NBA, but when trying to find a comparison for the talented freshman, Kevin Durant has to be a name that comes to mind.

Durant's game is still evolving, and that's scary
Besides their incredible length, both players have a high offensive skill set, 3 point range, excellent ball handling abilities, terrific body control, good lateral quickness, and a laid-back demeanor. Durant's better in the post than Maker, and he's more effective off the bounce, but Thon's 3-inches taller, and he's probably a better defender than Durant was in high school. So, what are the chances Thon Maker becomes the next Kevin Durant? Slim to none, but then again, anything's possible.

Back in October, Thon Maker was selected as Prospect-Central's Pre-Season Freshman of the Year, and it's safe to say he delivered with the goods. In his first varsity game, Maker went for 49 and 18 (lol), and it was all smooth sailing after that. Besides leading Carlisle School to a Virginia Division II State Championship, Maker was in the top 5 of three major statistical categories for freshmen. He was 4th in scoring (23.4 ppg), 4th in rebounds (12.9 rpg), and 2nd in blocks (4.9 bpg). He might not have played against the greatest competition, but those are still some pretty impressive numbers.

Maker should be in high demand this spring and summer, as he'll more than likely be invited to a number of national events. Watching Thon play against better competition should help in the evaluation process, because there're certainly some heavy hitters in the Class of 2016. As with all class rankings, it might be debatable if he's the #1 recruit or not, but you can't deny that he's in the discussion. And if you still think he's just a big faker, be careful, because you might just meet your Maker!

NBA Comparisons of #1 Recruits
2013 / 2014 / 2015

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