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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / October 19.
  • For Thon Maker, College is the First Option, But Not the Only One

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    BENTON, Ky. Thon Maker was born in the Sudan, grew up in Australia and has attended high schools in the United States and now Canada at Athlete Institute.

    His guardian, Ed Smith, is already anticipating potential eligiblity issues ahead with the NCAA.

    “There is never going to be a ‘Free Thon Maker’ sign,” Smith said at the Marshall County Hoopfest where Kansas coach Bill Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend watched Maker go for 18 points, 17 rebounds, 8 turnovers and 2 assists as Oak Hill Academy (VA) beat Athlete Institute (Ontario), 74-57, Saturday night.

    “I felt it wasn’t the greatest of situations of what happened with Cheick (Diallo) or what happened with Skal (Labissiere) or what happened with Tacko (Fall). If I see Thon sitting there stressed, going through that level of stress, I always keep his mind open to options of what he can do.

    Maker’s preference is to play college ball in the U.S., and Smith said the athletic 7-footer doesn’t want to play professionally instead of college next season.

    “He doesn’t want to go to Europe, he doesn’t want to go overseas,” Smith said. “But what can you do within that period of time, what are the options? Does he stay in Canada, does he go to Australia and train in the Institute of Sports and train for the Olympics with their National Team? Does he stay at the Institute and do that. The Australian team is preparing for the Olympics and you have options.

    “Our thing is this, we are going to give the NCAA a 100 percent opportunity,” Smith added. “By mid-January, they are going to have everything they need. So we are going to give the NCAA an opportunity to get ahead of this.” 

    As far as schools, Smith said Notre Dame, Arizona State and Kansas are the main three, even though St. John’s has visited Maker in Canada. Indiana assistant Chuck Martin was actively recruiting Maker, but Smith told Martin they just want to wait and see how things evolve with the Hoosiers. 

    With all five official visits remaining, Smith said they are looking to schedule three, but the process has been difficult. 

    “It’s hard, it’s hard,” Smith stated. “We tried to set up something with Arizona State. We tried to find a gap, we have a heavy schedule this year.

     “We’re trying to find a gap for Kansas, a gap for Arizona State, a gap for Notre Dame,” Smith continued. “Indiana, we’re just watching the situation. But those three we know we will do officials.” 

    As for his relationship with Self, Maker he has a “cool” relationship with the Kansas coach. 

    “I’m really just cool with Coach Self,” Maker said. “I like his demeanor as a coach and as a person. He s just cool about the way he does stuff, not cool in terms of laid back but you can get a good relationship with a coach like that. I see him on the sideline always smiling and when we go watch the games, he enjoys having us around.” 

    Arizona State is the heavy favorite on the 247Sports CrystalBall, owning 90 percent of all votes. That may be due to the fact that Maker has a special relationship with an assistant coach for the Sun Devils. 

    “They have my friend Coach Brian Merritt,” Maker said. “I met him at the Lucas camp and we have been friends ever since. They hired him so that’s the connection over there.

    “We’ve been close, because the first time I went to the Lucas camp I met him and then I would stay in touch,” Maker continued. “I’ve been to all the Lucas camps, which he helped run, and then finally he got hired at Arizona State.” 

    Smith said a decision could come as late as August, depending on the NCAA Clearinghouse. 

    “When they (NCAA) comes back and says yes or no, then we will sign,” Smith stated. “We have all the way up until August. We would have options ready by then. We are not going to go until fall. We will look at what’s best for him. We are going to say, here you go NCAA. Tell us if we fit within your criteria or if we don’t and then we have to make a decision.” 

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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.