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SN50: Thon Maker’s on a wild ride – and we’re riding shotgun

From YouTube mixtapes, to bonafide NBA player, the ride for Thon
Maker has been a wild one, but it’s one that we’ve got to see every
step of the way.

The Sudanese-born Australian basketball player emerged in
internet virality all those years ago, representing what the future
of the sport would look like; a long, athletic, multi-skilled big
man that could shoot the ball as quick as he could put it on the

Fast-forward to draft day 2016, where Aussie fans expected to
see Ben Simmons taken near the top of the draft, but the story that
had everyone talking was the Milwaukee Bucks using their #10 pick
to take a chance on the Maker.

MAKING THEIR MARK: The 50 best Australian athletes, 21 and

Three seasons in and Maker has shown flashes of that
otherworldly potential, stretching defences with his shooting and
making teams pay at the rim, with his supreme shot-blocking ability
and as each game passes, the 7-footer believes that growing sense
of belonging at this level helps fuel his desire to be great.

“You kind of know what’s coming in terms of who you’re going up
against, what’s expected of you and what’s expected of the other
team as well so getting into the game you’re kind of more prepared,
more confident and I think that’s the biggest part, being kind of
like a veteran but not at that stage yet,” Maker told
Sporting News Australia.

“You know even though it’s my third year I feel like I’ve been
here forever, so the knowledge just grows over time, so heading
into the season you kind of know what to expect.”

With plenty of competition for minutes on this Bucks team, Maker
has seized his opportunities at the right time. Down 0-2 to the
Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season,
Maker had played just one minute across the first two games. With
the Bucks in need of a spark, he was injected into the fray and
wasted no time, appearing as though the playoffs were the stage
he’d been waiting for.

He combined for 10 blocks in two games, launching threes and
tormenting the Celtics inside and out….all of a sudden the Bucks
were level at 2-2, thanks largely to Makers’ infectious defensive
presence. Milwaukee would go on to lose the series in seven games,
but Maker had arrived on the biggest stage.

From his playoff heroics, to making his debut for the Australian
National Team, Maker’s 2018 put him in front of plenty of
Australian sporting fans’ eyeballs, adding to the excitement of
what is an already growing basketball culture in Australia.

The 21-year-old sits third in this year’s edition of the
SN50 countdown of the best Australian athletes 21
and under
, an achievement that he says only makes him want to
work harder.

“That’s big!” Maker said of being named in the SN50.

THE BEST OF THE BEST: How we judged Australia’s best young athletes for
the SN50

“The country of Australia is big, so I just got continue to
work. I got to find a way to continue to set a good example every
single time consistently both on and off the court. And just to
hear something like that means a lot.

“Even though I was not familiarized with the award, you know it
still really means something, because I like winning as an athlete,
I’m competitive I like winning. But to get something like that you
know you kind of want to keep it going. And winning is addictive in
a good way that supports, helps the youth grow.

“That helps a country come up, it’s big. So for me, I want to
say I’m honoured, and I want to thank whoever voted for me to get
me out there. “

While Thon is making his mark on the basketball court, there’s a
responsibility that comes with that success and he wants to make
sure that his success isn’t just his. Providing a blueprint for
Aussie players, especially South-Sudanese Australians helps drive
Maker to be a better role model and that position of leadership is
perhaps where his impact will be felt the most.

“It helps me stay focused, stay sharp carry myself a certain way
both on and on and off the court as well,” Maker said of being a

“You know just being a professional because you know that’s what
this is, you know it’s a pro league and you’re trying to set an
example because the youth are watching.

“No matter what you do they’re always watching either through
social media on TV or in person, who they see in person, so how you
carry is very important and that kind of helps me stay sharp, stay
focused at all times, that way to see how determined I am in terms
of trying to get what I want or where I want to get to, they kind
of see that focus and they want to do the same thing. They want to
kind of copy that as well.”

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