Hello Canada! The despite not participating in the 2014 FIBA World Cup the good news keeps on rolling for Canadian basketball fans.
In a never seen before move that will have a significant impact and a ripple effect on the entire Canadian basketball landscape – from HS, Prep, AAU and all the way to the NBA and including the Senior Men’s National team. Thon Maker a 7-foot, 210lbs forward and the top 2016 prospect currently in the United States of America is transferring to Canada for his next destination in a long journey that traces back to Australia and South Sudan.
Rumours broke out early Wednesday morning that Maker had transferred from Carlisle School in Martinsville, Virginia where he resided with his brother Matur and legal guardian Edward Smith who has been taking care of the 7-foot Sudanese prospects since their arrival in the U.S in early 2010.
Thon posted an image on his official Instagram account alongside his brother inside the three-year-old Athlete Institute Prep (ACTS) facility which is located 45 minutes north of Toronto in Orangeville, Ontario. The 16-year phenom is also considering Hopewell Academy in North Carolina as an alternative option.
Maker and his camp got a taste of Canadian hospitality back in the summer of 2013 when Maker participated in Drake’s 2nd Annual OVO Bounce Classic. The summer event coincides with Toronto’s annual Caribana event and provided the perfect backdrop to lure Maker and his camp to Canada. Maker then a ninth-grader went up against Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson, holding his own in the tournament’s final and further intriguing speculations as to what he was doing in Toronto in the first-place.
Inside a buzzing Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre I had the opportunity to chat with Thon and his guardian Edward Smith who openly discussed their intentions of bringing Makur to Canada and were in town to iron out some visa issues. When asked about his young phenom’s prospect of playing international ball for Australia, Smith sighted that because he never played for any country all options were on the table, including the possibility of Canadian basketball fans seeing Makur in a red and white jersey, rather the green and yellow colours of their Commonwealth brothers who are also witnessing their own rise in the game of basketball.
With the USA national team out of the picture and Australia completely in the opposite end of North American time zone, Canada, which also boasts a growing and stable economic relationship with Sudan makes the made the sense for Maker and his team.
After two days of intense training and ironing out the necessary details Smith confirmed that Maker would indeed be staying in Canada, completing a major national basketball coupe for Canada!
“We believe this is the best decision for Thon, Matur and my family,” said Ed Smith, Maker’s guardian who will be an assistant coach with the Athlete Institute. “The strength and condition program is tremendous and is the main factor of this decision. Playing with high-level players such as Jamal Murray and Jalen Poyser, and playing an international schedule, as well as many games back in the states makes the schedule strong. The academic component has everything in place.”
“We are excited to have both Thon and Matur join our program, as they are great players and people,” coach Larry Blunt said.
“It’s definitely the right fit for me,” Thon Maker said. “I came up here last year, but now I got a chance to see both the academic and athletic side, and I was really impressed. It will certainly help me attain one of my goals, and that is to change my body over time.”
Orangeville Prep Canadian Basketball Powerhouse
First, it was Kitchener, Ontario guard Jamal Murray (2013 Jordan Brand International game MVP) who decided to stay close to home and join the Athlete Institute Bears instead of doing like most Canadians have, bouncing Stateside “for exposure and high competition.” With Maker and his talented brother in the picture which also includes several other top Canadian basketball prospects who are returning home (Jaylen Posner) after gaining a successful experience in the US and you have all the right ingredients for a Canadian basketball prep powerhouse that has the potential to compete with some of the top American programs (Huntington Prep (WV), Findlay Pilots (NV), St. Benedict’s (NJ), Montverde Prep (FL) that have played a pivotal role in giving Canada their recent basketball heroes.
Potential third number one pick for Canada in four/five years?
There is no doubt Maker’s game is NBA ready the only question(s) is will he go first overall when he does declare for the NBA draft? With Canada racking-up, the previous two first-overall picks in Anthony Bennett (2013) and Andrew Wiggins (2014) will Thon Maker become the next Canadian player to go number one in 2016 or 2017?
Impact on Canadian Senior Men’s National Team?
Can you imagine this line-up down the road at the 2016 Olympics in Rio or at the FIBA Americas?
Cory Joseph, Tyler Ennis, Nik Stauskas, Andrew Wiggins, Thon Maker, Tristan Thompson, Kelly Olynk, Robert Scare, Trey Lyles, Andrew Nicholson, Brady Heslip, Khem Birch? Pretty special right? Before any of this happens, Makur will have to become a naturalized Canadian citizen, a process that is not guaranteed and pretty complex, just ask former Toronto Raptor Matt Bonner who for years was rumoured to be joining the Canadian national team.