- Gregory Payan/AP
A high-school basketball player is trying to become the first player in more than 10 years to go straight from high school to the NBA, and if he is successful, it could make college less tempting for many of the game’s top players.
Thon Maker, a 7-foot Sudanese prospect who turned 19 in February, announced Sunday in a video on Bleacher Report that he was attempting to turn pro. ESPN confirmed the news, and according to David Aldridge of the NBA Network, the league is expected to rule on his eligibility shortly.
Under theNBA’scollective bargaining agreement, a player is eligible for the draft only if he is 19 and at least one year removed from high school. Maker is old enough to go pro; his eligibility will come down to whether the NBA buys his argument that he is now in a postgrad year and was actually part of the class of 2015.
If the NBA rules in Maker’s favor, it will create a new and potentially more tempting avenue for skipping college before turning pro. Until now, the most common alternative to a year in college was to play in Europe or Asia for a year, a potentially overwhelming situation for most 18-year-olds.
Should Maker be deemed eligible, many top prospects might no longer feel forced to go to college, opting instead to find a prep school where they could play for one season as a “postgrad” until they are old enough for the NBA.
Maker has spent the past two years enrolled at Orangeville Prep (also called Athlete Institute) in Ontario. In eighth grade, when he arrived in the US from Australia, he attended Metairie Park Country Day School in Louisiana before spending two years at a high school in Virginia.
Last spring, Maker was reportedly considering reclassifying to play college basketball this season. He opted instead to stay at Orangeville Prep to play with his younger brother. Maker has not committed to a college program, though he has reportedly taken an official visit to Kansas and is also considering Arizona State, Notre Dame, UNLV, and Indiana.
Scouts are mixed on Maker’s talent. He rose to internet prominence with a viral mixtape, but he has struggled in the few elite high-school camps he has attended. Maker is the 17th-ranked member of the class of 2016 and, according to DraftExpress, the 44th-ranked prospect in the 2016 NBA draft.
If the NBA rules against his eligibility, however, Maker could still follow in the footsteps of players like Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay who played overseas instead of going to college.
Even if Maker doesn’t pan out to be an All-Star, it will be important to see how the NBA rules on his eligibility. Should it allow him to declare for the draft, it will most likely set a new precedent for future high-school prospects.