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May 27, 2014

Nation's No. 3 rated prospect has Florida's attention



In basketball recruiting, it seems like 'the next big thing' comes around each and every recruiting cycle. For the past three years, Thon Maker has been tagged with that label.

A rising junior, Maker became well known amongst hoops junkies before he ever stepped foot on a high school basketball court. That's what happens when you're a 7-foot eighth grader and highlights of your workouts at the John Lucas Big Man camp go viral with over two million views.

If you haven't had an opportunity to see Thon Maker play in person, you're missing out on a treat. The No. 3 overall player in the Class of 2016 is as advertised--a long and athletic big man that is equally impressive running the floor and finishing with an array of moves, as he is facing the basket and stroking jumpers to the three-point line.

Despite his lanky frame, he also battles hard on the boards, often toe-to-toe with bulkier or wide-body post men.

Inside the Gators had an opportunity to watch him play twice over the Memorial Day Weekend,. He is similar to a young Kevin Garnett.

Maker plays for Team Loaded, Va., and attends Carlisle school in Martinsville, Va. ITG sat down to talk with Maker and his guardian, Edward Smith, about a variety of topics including Florida's recent scholarship offer.

"I spoke with coach Donovan, they're aggressively recruiting Thon," Smith said. "Billy felt that Thon was a player that you really couldn't put in a box. On the offensive end there's a variety of things you can do with him. I think that's been a reoccurring theme. Really working on mismatches where he [Thon] can initiate your offense as a passer, like Joakim Noah did at Florida where he can make passes from the high post. Not to say he's Joakim Noah, I don't want to get that twisted. Defensively the way Florida presses, Thon is a run and jump athlete and a rim protector also."

Without question Maker has the full attention of college coaches across the country. As you would expect, he has a lengthy list of offers. Smith said that Florida, Duke, Kansas, Virginia, Kentucky, SMU and Louisville are in steady contact.

Maker has lived and trained with Smith in Australia since 2010. As he transitioned from soccer to basketball and got progressively better Smith decided to bring the then 7-foot, 164 pounder to John Lucas' camp and the rest, as they say, is history.

For the past few years, Maker has added weight (he's up to 208 pounds) and strength while playing against the top upperclassmen centers on the AAU circuit and at camps such as the NBPA Top 100 camp in Charlottesville, VA.

Although he defers recruiting questions to his guardian, Maker does have an idea of the things that will be important to him when he gets closer to making a college choice.

"It has to be a fitting environment, the school has to fit you," Maker explained. "Also what you're about to study there and style of play. I'm not going to go up against a big 300 pound guy. I'm going to make him move, make him run. Make the defense have to get a switch on me and then if they get a guard on me post up on him, shoot over him, or back him down or something like that."

Russ Wood is the basketball recruiting analyst for Inside the Gators & Rivals. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.


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