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Milwaukee is next stop in journey for Sudanese big man

Thon Maker's globe-trotting basketball journey ends (for now) with him being selected No. 10 overall in the 2016 Draft

POSTED: Jun 24, 2016 12:01 AM ET

By Lang Whitaker

BY Lang Whitaker


All-Access Interview: Thon Maker

The #10 pick Thon Maker of the Milwaukee Bucks talks with Jared Greenberg on Draft night.

Thon Maker's cross-continental journey that spanned the globe has finally reached its ultimate destination. Turns out, it's Milwaukee.

"It took a long time in a short time period," Maker said, neatly summarizing the last five years of his life, beginning from the moment Maker decided to commit to pursuing a career in basketball.

Thursday night in Brooklyn at the 2016 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks used the 10th pick on the 19-year-old seven-footer, who comes with a backstory that should be sponsored by Google Maps. Maker was born in South Sudan, and then fled with his family to Australia to escape the civil war. He attended schools in Louisiana and Virginia, before eventually ending up at Orangeville Prep in Ontario, Canada. Maker reclassified his academic status and managed to become eligible for the 2016 Draft, where most projected him to be a mid-to-late first-round selection.

Beyond The Paint: Thon Maker

David Aldridge sits down with Thon Maker, who could turn out to be one of the planet's next great players.

While his physical tools have never been in question, Maker's draft status was unsettled enough that he wasn't invited to sit in the green room in Brooklyn. Maker's potential draft position also faced last minute rumors about his age; specifically chatter that Maker might actually be several years older than his listed 19. ("If it were true, I'd probably be like sideways about it, but it's not true, so I'm comfortable.")

But on Draft night, none of that mattered: Maker was in the Barclays Center stands when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called his name at the 10 spot. After his circuitous life journey, Maker's route to the stage took him directly past several players still waiting to hear their names.

Draft Review: Bucks Select Maker

The Draft Review crew reacts to Milwaukee selecting Thon Maker with the tenth overall pick.

"When I walked past most of the guys in the green room, some of the guys looked at me sideways," Maker said. "Some of the guys I already knew from high school, so we were like friends. So they were happy and some guys gave me dap. And other guys were like, it should be them. I don't know, if I were in that situation, I would have been like, congrats, you know, you've made a step. Now go make a name for yourself."

Maker will be asked to do that in Milwaukee, where the Bucks will add Maker's go-go-gadget 7-3 wingspan to a roster already filled with tall, fast players, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and John Henson. The Bucks have already coined the hashtag #teamalllength on social media, and adding Maker just reinforces that brand.

"Obviously, joining with the rest of the guys that already have that length," said Maker, "it's going to be scary. Just... oh, man."

At least in some ways, it's Antetokounmpo who may provide the clearest blueprint for Maker to find success at the next level. While Maker says he specifically hopes to improve his ball handling and shooting consistency, Antetokounmpo has already demonstrated the work required to successfully transform from prospect to franchise player.

Instant Analysis: Pick 10

The NBA TV guys discuss the number ten pick Thon Maker to the Milwaukee Bucks.

"When [Giannis] first got drafted, everybody was like, oh, he's too skinny, he's this and that, he's not going to do this," says Maker, "and now everybody is looking at him like, 'Oh, he's next.' He's scary with what he can do with that length. Just picking his mind about what he did to push him that high. Really just picking his mind."

In a world that is increasingly interconnected, Maker can be a player for the modern age, one who is something of a citizen of the world. Maker says he hopes to speak to other NBA players of African descent, looks forward to playing for the Australian National team one day, finished his prep career in Canada, and now he will ply his trade in America's dairyland.

It's been a bumpy ride, but with his future now settled, Maker's mark could be made in Milwaukee.

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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