When, on June 24, the Milwaukee Bucks—Milwaukee’s NBA team—announced they’d signed number-10 draft pick and center Thon Maker, fans went wild. This 7’1” player with a 9’3” standing reach can score through the hoops, yes, but he’s also a first in the industry. He’s the first player to be recruited right out of high school; most athletes who sign have played at the college level first. With a childhood spent in Sudan and Australia, 19-year-old Maker brings some culture to the NBA in addition to athleticism.
"We're really excited about him. You're always concerned: can you put your head on the pillow at night knowing you've drafted someone you can trust? We feel that's the case with Thon,” Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Hammond told WTMJ in Milwaukee
Intrigued by this guy? Read on to learn seven interesting facts about Maker, who will be a hot topic when the next season starts in late October. Coincidentally, the Milwaukee Bucks’ $500 million new arena will host its first game in 2018, and groundbreaking was in June. Located in downtown Milwaukee, the 714,000-square-foot arena will, once it’s complete, host all Bucks home games as well as hockey games and other sporting events, plus traveling circus shows and music concerts.
He’s Used to the Bitter-Cold Winters.
Attending Orangeville District High School (http://www.ugdsb.on.ca/odss/) in Ontario, Canada, quickly acclimated Maker to sub-zero temps, a skill he’ll likely need when relocating to Brew City. Cool fact: Maker attended school—and played alongside—Jamal Murray, another NBA first-round draft pick in 2016 (he’ll play for the Denver Nuggets).
His Parents Are Descendants of the Dinka People.
Born in Sudan, Maker later moved with his family to Perth, Australia, when he was five years old, later to Sydney in order to play basketball at Aranmore Catholic College (a high school). He became a national citizen of that country. His parents can be traced back to the Dinka people, about 18% of the population in Sudan.
He Was One of the First Students at a Prestigious Basketball Academy
Maker also has a brother, Matur (18, and 6’10”: proving that height runs in the family), who also played basketball at the Athlete Institute Basketball Academy in Orangeville. It’s Canada’s first year-round basketball academy for high-school students and a destination for NCAA scouts, charging students $28,000 annual tuition. The institute debuted in 2011.
He’s Lived in Virginia
In 2011, the Maker brothers relocated to Martinsville, Virginia, a town of around 13,000, an hour south of Roanoke. They both played basketball at Carlisle School, a school of about 500 students between the ages of pre-school to 12th grade. Its basketball team has won seven state championships.
His School Desk Had to Be Special-Ordered
When Maker sat at his desk on the first day he attended Orangeville District High School, it was an impossible, if not tight, fit. A new desk was promptly ordered.
He Only Watched His First NBA Game in 2008
Maker’s love affair with pro basketball doesn’t date back that far. In 2008, when he flipped on the TV—at the age of 11 and while in Australia—he caught an NBA final game. This was when the Boston Celtics (and Kevin Garnett, purported to be one of Maker’s basketball idols) beat the L.A. Lakers (and Kobe Bryant).
Mix-tapes published on YouTube.com came up more than once during the draft. While not made by Maker, they are a montage of his best moments on the court and served as a recruiting tool on his behalf during the NBA draft. In this 1:53 video from CityLeagueHoopsTV dials it back to five years ago when Maker was just 14, already showing promise as a basketball player. The video has earned 2.3 million views.