UK Recruiting

Next Cats notes: Top prospect Maker enjoying tour of Kentucky

Thon Maker of Orangeville Prep warms up in the Joe B. and Denny Showcase at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School gymnasium in Lexington, Ky., Friday, November 28, 2014. Photo by Matt Goins
Thon Maker of Orangeville Prep warms up in the Joe B. and Denny Showcase at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School gymnasium in Lexington, Ky., Friday, November 28, 2014. Photo by Matt Goins Herald-Leader

BENTON — Top basketball prospect Thon Maker has made the most of a more-than-weeklong visit to the Bluegrass State.

The 7-footer from Sudan — now playing for Orangeville Prep out of Canada — was in Lexington last weekend for two games at the Joe B. and Denny Bluegrass Showcase. He sat behind the University of Kentucky bench for the Cats' victory over Providence last Sunday and then attended Louisville's home win over Ohio State two days later.

On Thursday, Maker and his teammates played the first of two games at the Marshall County Hoop Fest. UK assistant coaches Kenny Payne and Barry "Slice" Rohrssen were there for that one. Saturday's late game featured Maker going against UK prospect Malik Newman.

Considered by some to be the No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2016, Maker said Calipari made it clear during his UK visit that he's also at the top of the Cats' recruiting list.

"It went very well," he said of his trip to Rupp. "I enjoyed the game itself. And afterward spoke with Coach Cal. He said if they need to come to Canada, he'll find a way to come and watch me."

Maker's guardian, Edward Smith, told the Herald-Leader last week that UK, Kansas, Indiana and Stanford were among the schools recruiting him the hardest. Smith also said that Maker is doing everything he can to join the class of 2015 and be eligible to play college basketball next season.

"It just depends if I'm ready or not," Maker said.

The high school star said he hasn't given any thought to possibly playing overseas next year before entering the NBA Draft in 2016.

Not a fan?

Skal Labissiere's guardian, Gerald Hamilton, has been criticized in recent months for the way he's handled the UK signee's recruitment and high school career.

Apparently, Labissiere's final choice of Kentucky was not Hamilton's first choice.

"I'm from the Memphis area, so I'm a Memphis fan," Hamilton said. "I support Memphis, and that was always an option."

Hamilton said he left the decision completely up to Labissiere.

"That's always been his dream," he said of UK. "I told him that I was going to support him. I told him when we first got over here that I was going to let him make the choice — wherever he wants to go. And Kentucky has always been a favorite.

"In my opinion, it was a real good move. I'm happy for him."

Twitter-less Thomas

In recent years, Twitter has become the go-to platform for top high school prospects to share information about their recruitment.

It's the place where many five-star recruits announce their decision dates, new school lists, scholarship offers and sometimes even their own commitments.

It's not where you'll find news from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep's Thomas Bryant — the only major UK recruiting target without a Twitter account.

"It's just too much sometimes," Bryant said. "It was just a decision on my part. I didn't want any distractions."

The 6-10 post player continued the solid start to his senior season Friday night with 19 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in Huntington Prep's 88-59 victory over Arsenal Tech (Ind.). Bryant, who picked up a UK offer last month, was 9-for-10 from the field and made all nine of his two-point attempts.

Tough crowd

Former Mississippi State standout Horatio Webster was back in Rupp Arena in October to accompany his son — five-star recruit Malik Newman — on an unofficial visit to UK's Big Blue Madness.

Webster used the words "amazing," "crazy" and "unbelievable" to describe the experience. Then he reminisced about going into Rupp as a player.

"It was tough," he said. "That was a tough place to play in. It was tough for anybody to get a win. And now they say it's even worse."

A reporter asked Webster if he ever won a game in Rupp.

"We never won," he said with a smile. "You know that."

UK defeated Mississippi State 90-61 in Webster's only visit to Rupp in 1997. He had a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds.

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