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Maker not finished with big summer
Carlisle standout heading to LeBron James Skills Academy
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In this Feb. 27 photo, Carlisle forward Thon Maker rises to dunk the ball in a 93-42 win against Fuqua School in the VISAA playoffs in Petersburg. (Kenny Webster photo)

Friday, June 28, 2013

By MARK THOMPSON - Bulletin Sports Editor

It’s been a hectic summer for Thon Maker, the freshman phenom who took Carlisle School’s basketball program by storm and helped lead the Chiefs to the VISAA DIII state semifinals.

Maker averaged 23.4 points, 12.9 rebounds, 4.9 blocks and 1.7 steals a game. At 7-feet, Maker dominated the post, handled the ball some and even shot 3-pointers at a near-30-percent clip.

Maker transferred to Carlisle for his freshman season from Metairie Park Country Day School in Metairie, La. He previously played basketball in Australia and was born in Sudan. Maker lives with his legal guardian Edward Smith, whom Maker also calls “Coach Smith” and “dad.”

Maker has played basketball all summer, competed in two elite camps and was recently one of 80 high school invitees to the LeBron James Skills Academy, held from July 5-8.

Mark Thompson: I know you’ve been really busy this summer. How have things been going for you?

Thon Maker: Things have been going well. They’ve been going great because I’ve accomplished the main goals that I’ve set for myself. Everything is working out well so far.

MT: You mentioned some goals. What are some of the goals you’ve set for yourself this summer?

TM: (They are) goals like going to the (Nike) Elite 100, the NBA Top 100 Camp and also getting an invite to the LeBron camp that’s coming up.

MT: How did those two camps go?

TM: They went well. The NBA Top 100 was pretty much a teaching point because I learned a lot — not only on the court but also life skills.

MT: When you say “life skills,” what do you mean by that?

TM: How to manage your whole image basically.

MT: The LeBron James skills camp is usually reserved for upper-classmen and older high school kids. Were you at all surprised you got an invitation to that?

TM: Yes, definitely. I was surprised and humbled. Right now, I think my hard work is finally paying off and I’m currently preparing for it.

MT: Let’s talk a little bit about Carlisle. You obviously had a good freshman year there. How did you enjoy the makeup of the team, the guys you were playing with and just your freshman season as a whole?

TM: It was exciting to come together so quick and accomplish as much as we have. And with the team we’re about to assemble together right now, I expect us to be much more organized and understand our roles better.

MT: Were there any moments from the season that stick out as your favorites?

TM: Definitely. The opening up with 49 points and 18 rebounds and also winning the game.

MT: Your dad said the reason you transferred to Carlisle from Country Day in Louisiana was that the coach down there wasn’t allowing you to explore your game as much as you wanted to. What kind of differences have you seen in what Coach (Jason) Niblett has allowed you to do at Carlisle?

TM: Well going back to the first game of the season when I had the 49 and 18, I got to handle the ball more and make plays for myself and my teammates. And I expect the same thing coming this season because we’ll be much more organized and our players will know their roles better.

MT: Your brother Matur is coming to Carlisle next season. How excited are you to play with him next year?

TM: I’m very excited, of course. But he will have to do his school work and learn how to play basketball from Coach Smith, and then from there he can run with the big dogs.

MT: Let me ask you this: One-on-one, you versus your brother. Who’s going to win that game?

TM: Simple because with this game I have no mercy for anybody and he still has a lot to learn. I can’t really say the words, but I would kick his tail.

MT: I like your honesty. So, Thon, you’ve been pretty tall for a while now. How old were you when you first dunked a basketball?

TM: At 13, when I first started playing.

MT: Did you play other sports prior to that?

TM: Soccer, and a little bit of martial arts.

MT: Oh really? Do you still keep up with your martial arts?

TM: Nah. I hope I somehow get back into it. It’s a great teaching point and it will get your body right also.

MT: You must have some pretty big goals with regards to basketball. What are some of your long-term goals in the sport?

TM: When I first started with Coach Smith, we had a plan. And with those goals, it started off with getting the first pick in the (NBA) draft, All-Star (selections), championships and the whole thing.

MT: When you look around at other players out there — could be high school, college or pro players — are there any guys you look up to as players you admire?

TM: Well at 7-feet-plus, there’s nobody I look up to right now. But Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant.

MT: Between those three guys, how do you see your game comparing to what they bring?

TM: With Kevin Durant it’s the way he was built and what he can do. He can shoot the ball and handle the ball. I want to be able to have those tools. When it comes to Kevin Garnett, it’s the aggressiveness, the energy and working on the face-up game. And with Kobe Bryant, it’s all of that but also his mental toughness — that assassin-type look. The killer look.

MT: So you want the skill set of Durant and Garnett with the mental approach of Kobe?

TM: Exactly.

MT: I know the whole recruiting scene can be pretty hectic, and I’m sure you’ve been contacted by colleges. How has that process been going for you?

TM: Well, we’ve been getting a lot of calls from a lot of coaches — some of the big schools, like Kentucky, Duke, U.Va., UCLA, USC, Kansas and many more. But I leave that to my guardian to handle.

MT: I’m sure you’re aware of this, but recently ESPN released its Class of 2016 rankings. You were No. 2 on that list. What were your thoughts on being No. 2?

TM: With that, I don’t really look at those rankings right now, but I’m looking at the rankings during that draft night — NBA draft night. And (a coach) told me some great advice once. He said, “don’t try to prove. Focus on improving.” That’s where my mental stage is at right now.

MT: Do you know Harry Giles at all? He was the guy ranked ahead of you. Have you ever met him?

TM: We’ve worked out a couple of times together. Right now I’m currently praying for him to recover well from the knee injury he had.

MT: OK last question. Let’s say it’s a Friday or Saturday night in the middle of basketball season at Carlisle. You have no game going on. What are some things you’re doing for fun?

TM: Well if there’s no game going on, I would be working on getting ready for the next guy who is stepping up the challenge, whomever I have to play next. Or I would be at home watching my favorite show.

MT: What’s your favorite show?

TM: I’m always on NBATV watching something. Basically anything to do with basketball.


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