Most of the time, when a player rated among the top five in his class takes the court, fans expect production. Even if the prospect is a wee sophomore, such as center Thon Maker, he must put forth a statistical demonstration or else risk the ire of the crowd.
But having watched Maker the past two weekends, he has received quite a bit more slack. He hasn't always been supremely effective as a scorer or even as a shotblocker, but his mere presence and ability to move has garnered appreciate from fans watching him for the first time.
His play at both the Chick-Fil-A Classic and the High School OT Invitational proved even the most casual recruiting fans to be prescient: This is a player who projects to develop into a potential star.
In the championship tilt on Saturday night, Maker added immense, clutch production to his dossier. The surging big man tallied 34 points to knock off a more athletic Trinity Christian squad.
Maker's short stride and gliding speed remind of former Tennessee power forward Isiah Victor. And Maker eventually may become a forward himself, particularly if he's unable to add sufficient lower body strength. Even now, two levels beneath the NBA, stronger high school big guys can barrel through him and score in ways one wouldn't expect to happen.
But unlike Victor, a 6-9 big man for the Volunteers, Maker is a seven-footer. That automatically places him at a category higher than Victor's, who was a fine player at UT. Maker possesses some of the same skills and, despite his height, prefers to generate offense from the perimeter. He boasts a nice scoring touch to the three-point stripe, handles and passes very well for his size, and is athletic enough to finish over a defender from vast distances for a dunk.
He does have some post scoring weapons, but he simply doesn't utilize them frequently enough. He can score on short turnaround jumpers, hooks or by simply turning and lofting a quick push shot onto the glass. Few opponents can alter those shots, as he proved in Raleigh versus elite shotblocker Goodluck Okonoboh.
Maker also appears to have choice timing. While he produced some ho-hum (yet still impressive) performances in the past couple weeks, he stood out with 26 & 15 versus Okonoboh and then obviously the sensational championship tilt. That's the kind of output that moots the potential vs. production argument altogether.