SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The recruitment of Thon Maker has included everything from absurd headlines to jaw-dropping highlight videos to speculation over a stint overseas to a possible jump into a different age class. This season, though, his college decision has evolved from an abstract concept to a concrete reality, and a conclusion could be on the horizon. Maker, a 7-foot big man who plays for Athlete Institute in Ontario, Canada, spoke about his plans in the coming months after scoring 16 points, grabbing eight rebounds and recording 10 blocks in a loss to Findlay Prep at the Hoophall Classic.
One of the first items on Maker’s agenda is taking the SAT on Jan. 23, after which he’ll have more time to devote attention toward recruiting.
The six schools in contention, he said, are St. John’s, Indiana, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Kansas and UNLV. Though he has yet to take an official visit, Maker said that out of those six, there’s “definitely” a chance that he will see Arizona State, Kansas and Notre Dame. He said he has not determined where he will elect to take his other two official visits, but he does plan to use them. Maker also mentioned the likelihood of taking a visit to St. John’s after a traffic jam on New Year’s Eve thwarted a previous attempt to do so.
He said he plans to make his decision in April.
When evaluating schools that are recruiting him, Maker said he is focusing on their coaches and his future teammates. “Playing with good guys that will, like, be in the game, and not half-in, half-out, doing something else in college—but fully locked in and playing with guys ... like, knowing who’s coming in as a recruiting class the same as me and knowing who’s leaving,” Maker said. “And then, also, having the right coaching staff [that is] going to get me better.” Maker discussed with SI.com why he’s interested in each of the six schools mentioned above.
• Indiana: “They use their bigs but they’ve been guard-oriented lately because they don’t have the bigs to do their jobs for them.” He added, “But coach Crean can coach the hell out of coaching, so he really coaches well.”
• Kansas: “They’re a big high-low team, and they like using their bigs on the high-lows on the pick-and-pops, pick-and-rolls into the elbow spots.” He added, “And also their guards can shoot, so that really leaves the bigs on an island to go to work, and it opens a lot of space.”
• Arizona State: “Right now, their guard, Tra [Holder], he’s doing the work for them. But they’re building—as they just got the coaching staff together. They’re really building, so that can be starting something new.”
• St. John’s: “Once again, they’re building also. They just got coach [Chris] Mullin, so with them, they’re building, but I’m pretty sure they’ll go with more of a pro-set type of thing, running pro stuff.”
• Notre Dame: “It’s also pro stuff, in terms of making guys really have to defend, by them running their stuff. They use their bigs well, but they surround their bigs with shooters, which really makes their bigs very useful, because the guards have to respect that on the defensive end.”
• UNLV: “Fast-paced, but right now, once again, they’re getting used to their coach. But, with them, they’re getting used to their coaching, but also they play a fast pace.”
Maker added, “All the teams, summed up together—they’re used to a fast pace, so I can really fit in at any of them.”
Maker may not be a “Kevin Durant-Chris Paul combo,” but he has the potential to develop into one of the best big men in the class of 2016 given his combination of length and athleticism, perimeter skills and ability to protect the rim. Maker has bulked up—he said he now checks in at 225 pounds after previously weighing in below 200 pounds—thanks, in part, to a diet plan calling for seven meals a day. Scout.com ranks him the No. 2 power forward and No. 5 player in the class of 2016, and DraftExpress projects him as a first-round pick in 2017.
The Maker hype train has long since gone off the rails, and many observers may never be able to separate him from the rush of hyperbole that attended his rise to prominence. But between now and the fall, Maker is simply undergoing a process similar to other recruits in his class: preparing for college.