July 2024

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Thon Maker was born in a village in South Sudan. He escaped the second civil war and found refuge in Perth, Australia. Now, the 17-year-old high school student, who stands at over 7 feet (2m13) tall, is a five-star recruit for the NBA draft with a bright future ahead of him.

He escaped violence for a better life

Maker’s uncle was a local administrator in South Sudan. He arranged for Maker – who was five years old at the time – to escape the violence of the Second Sudanese Civil War. Maker, along with his younger brother Matur and his aunt, fled to Uganda and then to Australia. They eventually settled down in Perth. Maker’s parents still live in South Sudan.

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Discovered at a young age

Maker was not actually discovered while playing basketball. He was noticed while playing soccer when he was 14 by talent scout Edward Smith. Smith is the one who helped Ater Majok and Mathiang Muo, who also immigrated from South Sudan, launch careers in basketball. He suggested Maker to try playing basketball instead of soccer. Smith promised Maker’s aunt that he would take care of Maker if he moved to Sydney with him and trained. Smith became Maker’s legal guardian.

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The beginning of his career

Maker started off in Sydney, playing for the St. George Basketball Association in 2011. He and Smith then attended a talent camp in Texas. Maker then began playing in the United States. He attended two schools in the state of Louisiana and the Carlisle School in the state of Virginia. While he was at Carlisle he averaged 22.2 points, 13.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 4.5 blocks during 53 games. He moved to Ontario, Canada to attend Orangeville Prep where he gained quite a reputation and was being pursued by college coaches and other recruiters.

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A different path

Maker initially attempted to finish high school in 2015 so he could enter college that coming fall semester and be selected in the 2016 NBA draft. However, he decided to return to Orangeville Prep and complete a postgraduate year of high school.  

“I tried to go into the 2015 class, it just didn’t work out,” he said. “For me, it was just trying to get it all done at once. Especially combined with traveling and just getting better. It all just clogs up your mind and you get stressed out, so I had to cut back on a few things.”

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A bright future ahead of him

Maker announced his intention to enter the 2016 NBA draft. The NBA had to determine whether he was eligible to enter that year or not. Though he is still a student at Orangeville Prep, he is 19 years old and had enough credits to graduate last year. Therefore, the NBA declared Maker eligible for the 2016 draft. With this ruling, Maker is on his way to becoming the first player to go directly from high school to the draft since 2005.

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SEE ALSO: The 10 Highest-Earning Athletes Of 2015