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Thursday / January 23.
  • Thon Maker Talks Recruitment, Jamal Murray’s Impact at Kentucky

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    Thon MakerThon Maker is scheduled to take his SAT on Saturday and after that he could begin to plan to some recruiting visits.

    “He’ll take the SATS this weekend [and] then we’ll start getting fully into it, and start building into it,” Ed Smith, Maker’s guardian, told SNY.tv by phone on Monday evening from Canada.

    Maker said he hopes to take some visits during the season.

    “As the season goes on, that’s what we look forward to do,” he said. “Last year I got a chance to take a few visits on the road so I really want to do something like that again. I know I’ll definitely take a few, if not all my officials on the road also, but I don’t know any particular dates.”

    The 7-foot Maker had originally considered spending only half of this season at Orangeville Prep in Ontario, but now plans to spend the whole year there before heading to college in the fall of 2016. He is currently projected as the No. 24 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com.

    Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley and Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey recently had home visits with Maker and would seem to be in line for campus visits, while St. John’s assistant Barry “Slice” Rohrssen jumped into the Maker Sweepstakes with a school visit on Monday.

    “Those two [Hurley and Brey] came in a little earlier,” Maker said by phone. “I think those were the main teams that came in for me.”

    Arizona State has jumped into a strong position with Maker, thanks largely to the hiring of assistant Brian Merritt.

    “Arizona State as a program, they’re kind of on the rise,” Maker said. “James Harden led the way for them already, so that’s a recruiting pitch.

    “But overall their coaching staff, Brian is a friend of mine, knowing him ever since the [John] Lucas days. So that also helps out. I also got a chance to watch coach Hurley coach one practice at Buffalo last year when I played at Orangeville Prep so it was good seeing the whole practice and watching him work with the guys.”

    Asked if Arizona State is near the top of his list, Maker said, “I don’t really have a list, but if I had a list, definitely, yeah, they would be on there.”

    Meantime, Notre Dame has also made inroads.

    “They just came in on the recruiting part of myself but with Coach Brey, he does a lot of NBA offenses, I like that,” Maker said. “When he came to visit he showed me my role of being the key player, getting guys involved. Not just being physically in one place and staying there the whole time but getting involved, so I enjoyed watching some things with him.”

    Kentucky has been linked to Maker in the past, but does not appear to be very active right now.

    “I haven’t heard from them myself in particular,” Maker said. “I haven’t seen them come through our practices or preseason. But they might be speaking with Coach Smith or texting with him. I don’t know what’s going on over there.”

    Maker played with current Kentucky freshman guard Jamal Murray last season and believes Murray will make an immediate impact with the Wildcats.

    “I know they will expect a high-energy guy,” he said. “He’s going to bring a lot of energy to the team and he’ll look to lead the team. And with the fans themselves, they will see a guy who works hard.

    “You saw last year when the [Harrison] twins were the main guys early on in the season but then all of a sudden you see Tyler [Ulis] come off the bench and he would start sometimes, and he brings that energy and the crowd would really get into it. So with him, he’ll look to make big plays when he comes in. He brings that energy, that hard work. He’s steady with that.”

    Maker said the Kentucky big men — Skal Labissiere, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Isaac Humphries — will enjoy playing with Murray.

    “The guards that’s guarding him will try to play his scoring ability so that will set up his bigs for buckets,” Maker said. “Everybody else will feed off of him.”

    Maker said the only schools he knows about that have come through are Arizona State, Notre Dame and now St. John’s.

    Smith says he’s also been hearing from Indiana, Florida State, Tennessee, UNLV and Iowa State.

    “I don’t know who else is speaking with Coach Smith,” Maker said

    Maker said he has no timetable on a decision.

    “Since St. John’s has got into the recruiting part, I’m pretty happy about that because I love New York,” he said. “I can’t emphasize that enough. I know Coach [Chris] Mullin himself, he’s a Hall of Famer. He’s been into the NBA so he knows about the NBA.

    “The thing about me playing with them would have to be who do they have, the system they run and how can I fit in there.”

    Maker says he may wait to see how some of the teams perform this season.

    “What’s fresh in the mind is how they’re currently doing, so that’s a good point, yeah,” he said.

    Maker reiterated that he definitely plans on going to college next season, assuming he is cleared by the NCAA, which may be an issue given the number of countries he has lived in and schools for which he has played.

    “Oh, yeah, definitely [planning on going to college],” he said.

    ****

    Maker also said he’s working on his tennis game.

    “My serve is deadly,” he said. “It’s not on point yet but I’m working on it. But it is pretty deadly. I need to work on it more.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.