A year ago, Makur Maker was largely an unknown in college basketball recruiting circles.
Like his older cousin — former five-star prospect and current NBA player Thon Maker — Makur left Africa at an early age and spent some time in Australia before making his way to the United States, where he started his high school career.
Maker turned heads during some high-profile recruiting events as a youngster, but he ended up moving to Canada and sitting out all of the 2017-18 season. When he popped up at Orange Lutheran High School in Southern California this past season, Maker re-emerged as a possible five-star talent.
And when the new 247Sports rankings for the class of 2020 came out last week, the near-7-footer had risen all the way to the No. 2 overall spot.
“This is a kid who took off during his high school season, and every time I’ve seen him he’s been a little bit better,” 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “He’s in terrific shape. He’s 6-foot-11. He’s versatile. He can score the ball from the perimeter. He can score the ball on the block. He’s active. He plays hard. He brings energy. He rebounds. He protects the rim. At the high school level, he’s been extremely productive. And in my viewings of him in the spring, he was fantastic. There’s a lot of potential in a guy like him, who’s 6-foot-11 and can impact the game in all the ways that he can.”
Maker has indeed been terrorizing the Adidas circuit this spring, and this week’s NBPA Top 100 Camp is the latest showcase for his unique game.
This is the first year in the camp’s history that college coaches will be permitted to attend its games, and Maker will surely be one of the main attractions as the week progresses.
Expect John Calipari to be among those paying close attention to the rising star.
The UK head coach and top assistant Kenny Payne made a surprise in-home visit with Maker and his guardian, Ed Smith, this spring, and the meeting obviously had a positive effect.
“Coach Calipari is a good guy,” Maker said. “He sat down with me and my guardian, spoke about some things — how they see me at Kentucky. How I fit … just talking to me, personally. He was giving me tips. What it takes there to be on the floor, and what he would expect from me. He’s a good person.”
UK is not among the schools that have extended a scholarship offer to Maker, but it’s still early in the process, and Calipari has demonstrated in the past that he likes to familiarize himself with a player and his game before taking that step in a recruitment.
Maker is also taking things slow. His only recruiting visits so far have been convenient day trips to the local schools — UCLA and Southern Cal — and most of the recruiting calls from coaches have been going through his guardian.
More visits are on the horizon, however. Maker said he’d like to start making those trips this summer. Asked if there were any college campuses he knew for sure he wanted to see, he mentioned only one school by name: “Kentucky, probably. Most likely. Sometime this summer, I probably want to see them.”
Speculation was rampant this spring that Maker might decide to forego his final year of high school, graduate early, and enroll in college for this coming season.
On Wednesday night, he was adamant in his denial of such a path.
“Definitely staying in 2020. Giving it one more year,” Maker said. “Since I had a year off, I feel like I should get a year back and go on the floor and learn what I can do as a player.”
He already does plenty, and he describes his game as “positionless,” one of Calipari’s favorite recruiting buzzwords in recent years. In college, he’d likely fit as a versatile frontcourt player.
“He’ll play some at the ‘4.’ He’ll play some at the ‘5,’” Daniels said. “He moves well enough where he can guard 4’s. On his high school and AAU team, they’ll even have him bring the ball up some. He’s not that (at the college level) but he is skilled enough to where he can grab a rebound and push it coast to coast.
“He’s a terrific rim-runner. He’s very fluid. He consistently beats the opposition to the other end of the floor.”
Maker has seen the YouTube videos calling him a “7-foot point guard” and he knows that many players his age try to play out of position to show off their perceived versatility. That doesn’t seem to be his mentality, even if he does take to the perimeter from time to time.
“I just go out every night and give it my all,” he said. “It starts on the defensive end and rebounding the ball. I still have a long way to go, and I’m still proving what I can do on the floor.
“I don’t buy the hype, when they say ‘7-foot point guard.’ I like to do things on the floor. I like to go down low sometimes. It starts down low, and then work my way out. I’m not a point guard, but I am positionless.”