For Thon Maker, playing basketball in the United States is something he's unlikely ever to take for granted. A native of the Sudan who thankfully did not suffer the horrors of war like many Sudanese athletes, he moved to Australia at a young age.
From there, Maker grew substantially and made a name for himself in the Southern Hemisphere before moving to America relatively recently. His talent had become apparent, and despite changing high schools he now appears well-situated at Martinsville (Va.) Carlisle to make a push for the top spot in the Class of 2016.
Many fans watch him for the first time and comment that he looks old for his class. Maker indeed is a year older than some of his sophomore contemporaries, but more than that, his polish is abnormal for such a young big man. He runs with an ease and grace that suggests athleticism and coordination — and those insinuations definitely are accurate.
Maker is very quick both off the floor and laterally. Down the road he could prove highly effective defending against the pervasive screen and roll offenses of college and the NBA, and his explosive leap enables him to swat shots at a prolific rate. He also retrieves offensive rebounds before opponents are able to jump into the play, and his rapid dunking style catches many observers off-guard.
He possesses legitimate shooting range as well. Though Maker is likely to occupy center territory in college, he could develop into a three-point weapon as his career develops. He already strokes in some long bombs and looks pretty good doing it, and as he becomes more inside-out he'll get even cleaner, more wide open looks. Meanwhile, he dribbles reasonably well with his right hand and thus can advance with the ball from the perimeter to the basket.
Maker's post game needs work, but he has the tools to piece together an interior scoring attack that's formidable. Few defenders will be able to challenge his turnaround jump shot — which already is fairly accurate — and his overall quickness getting to the rim will be more than most can handle from a raw athletic standpoint.
Gaining strength will be critical. At this very early stage Maker can struggle against big men with stronger lower bodies, but even then he frequently compensates well thanks to reach and speed. In short, he does some things now better than most high-major senior center signees, and he has so much room to grow that he could leave his peers in the dust over the next two years.