All eyes are on Thon Maker (Martinsville, Va./Carlisle School) every time he takes the court.
That happens when you're ranked as the top prospect in the country.
The No. 1 prospect in the 2016 ESPN 25 has lived up to the billing this season, and he certainly had the look of a top-ranked prospect in a 60-55 loss to Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy on Friday.
“Maker is tough,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. “He made a couple of 3s in the first half. He’s highly skilled for his size, obviously. If I coached him, I would like to see him go down low a little more. They say that’s not his game, but he needs to add that to his game if it’s not. He’s highly skilled. I mean, he can put it on the floor, he can shoot it ... and I can’t tell how well he passes it. He’s an awfully good player.”
Maker, who has only been playing basketball since 2010, has immense talent. And he has a road in front of him to be the player he wants to be. His No. 1 ranking isn’t changing how he approaches things.
“It just means that I’ve got to work hard,” Said Maker. “I’ve got to work hard every day and know that there are other people behind me trying to take my spot. At the same time, I have to produce, and that is what I’ve been working on."
“Thon has made tremendous strides since last year,” Carlisle coach Jason Niblett added. “He’s getting more fluid putting the ball on the floor, knocking down jump shots, where last year, he was developing that. He’s getting better every day. Ball-handling can continue to improve, he can continue to improve on his post game... it’s still a work in progress.”
This season, Maker has been working in the post, especially with his mid-range game.
“Well, I’ve figured out my spots and know where I want to catch the ball from,” he said. “Lately, I’ve been working on making plays off of those spots. Mainly from the 4-spot, high post, little bit of the high block [and] the low block.”
As far as Maker’s recruitment goes, it’s a who’s who of suitors.
“Probably the better question is who hasn’t,” Niblett said. “If I got into the list of schools that have offered, we would be here all night.”
One program that will definitely be in the hunt is Duke. Maker visited Durham in October for the Blue Devils’ midnight madness, and it made quite an impression.
“That was a special moment,” said Maker. “I went to Cameron and got to see the crazy fans they are and also got to talk to Coach K a little bit. He’s a wonderful guy. He gave me some advice. You have to work out with the right team, take the right shots with that team, work hard with that team and be around people [who] are going to work hard also so you don’t slack off."
“The fans were chanting my name. It was crazy.”
With a Carlisle schedule that has more than 40 games on the docket, finding the time to take unofficial visits can be a daunting task.
“Nothing [is] scheduled that I’m sure of yet, but it would be something local because we have a lot of games,” he said.
Among the possibilities for unofficial visits during the season are trips to Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgetown.
Along with those four schools, programs such as Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, Indiana and Maryland have stayed in contact with Maker.
While it’s too soon for Maker to list his favorites, the style of play will be a definite factor in his recruitment. Freedom and a quick pace are keys.
“Well, I can basically change the whole situation," he said. "I can go fast paced. I’m able to run down, come off picks and make guys chase me because I’m quick and fast. Mainly people put the big 5s on me so I just have to use my quickness against them.