Meet the Milwaukee Bucks' new big man in the middle

Team drafts 7-foot-1 Thon Maker
Posted at 9:20 AM, Jun 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-24 10:20:17-04

Thon Maker's journey to the NBA has taken him thousands of miles across the globe, from his native South Sudan to Australia to Canada.

Next stop: Milwaukee.

The Bucks took Maker, a 19-year-old big man, with the 10th overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night.

He's a relative unknown among rank-and-file NBA fans. The 7-foot-1 Maker played last year for the Athlete Institute in Canada.

But among NBA executives, Maker has been drawing attention for years.

"We saw a kid that had a strong determination and desire," general manager John Hammond said Thursday at the team's training facility .

An scouting report listed Maker at 216 pounds and "incredibly athletic and agile for a player his height."

He had potential as a shooter, and defensive upside.

"Being able to shoot the ball, spread the floor a little bit and take pressure off the bigs, just competing nonstop at all times," Maker said in New York.

In the second round, the Bucks took Malcolm Brogdon with the 36th overall selection from Virginia. The 6-foot-5 Brogdon fits the blueprint of the kind of defender that appeals to the Bucks, with length and the ability to guard multiple positions. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year and defensive player of the year as a senior.

The Bucks selected Patrick McCaw from UNLV with the 38th overall selection, then dealt the guard to Golden State for cash.

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  • As for Maker, the Bucks needed a big man who could defend, rebound and provide another physical presence alongside cornerstone forwards Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    Hammond took a risk on international prospect Antetokounmpo in the 2013 draft that has paid off. The Bucks hope they can get the same return eventually on Maker.

    He figures to be a project, someone who'll need to hone his raw basketball skills — just like Antetokounmpo the last few years.

    "He's scary with what he can do with that length," Maker said about the 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo.

    Asked if Antetokounmpo's development provided a blueprint for Maker's future, Hammond said "You bet we do. The blueprint is right here, it's right here on this floor. The one thing that happens on this building, on this floor is hard work."

    It's on the Bucks' training facility floor where Maker had an impressive workout on June 15 . The Bucks were about to take Maker to dinner, but the prospect had other thoughts.

    "He got back on the floor ... He went for hour and 45 minutes after that," Hammond said. "I told him, we got in the car, I said 'Thon, if you get drafted, you just got a taste of what's going to happen with you."

    Maker's lengthy basketball itinerary also includes stops playing high school ball in Martinsville, Virginia, and Metairie, Louisiana.

    The league in 2005 instituted a rule in the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement that players be at least 19 and one year removed from the graduation of their high school class. A player hasn't made the leap from the preps to the NBA since then, though Maker's case was open to interpretation.

    He turned 19 in February and has argued he actually earned his high school diploma in 2015, though he spent a fifth year at Athlete Institute Prep in Ontario.

    When asked at the NBA combine in May exactly how many places he had lived, he paused and shook his head.

    "I don't know," Maker said then . "Do your research."

    On Thursday, Hammond wasn't fazed by social media-fueled rumors questioning Maker's age.

    "No, look, he's 19 years old, that's what we have record of," Hammond said. "We're comfortable with who he is and what he is."