Thon Maker, Jamal Murray Recruiting Update


Thon Maker, Jamal Murray Recruiting Update

As the college basketball season winds down and the spring signing period draws near, all eyes in the Ontario basketball world are on Orangeville Prep stars Thon Maker and Jamal Murray.

Leading up to the National letter of intent signing day on April 15, both Maker and Murray will part take in the Nike Hoop Summit on April 11, and the BioSteel All-Canadian All Star Game on April 14. Since neither player has declared their intentions for next season, both are sure to face an abundance of recruiting questions during those events.

Although playing overseas, or possibly returning to Orangeville Prep for a postgrad season, have been discussed, here is the latest news on both players in regards to their NCAA recruitment.

Murray Still Undecided About Reclassifying:

In an interview with our staff writer Ryan Greco on CHRY 105.5 Halftime, Murray told Greco that he remains undecided on the idea of reclassifying.

“I haven’t decided if I’m going 2015 or 2016,” said Murray. “I really don’t know yet.”

Although he is unsure of reclassifying, he did shed some light on what kind of coach and program he would be looking to join.

“I can play multiple styles,” said Murray. “I can adapt to the system the coach puts me in. But I want a coach that understands me. That wants and needs me, and will give me an opportunity to shine and give me space.”

With multiple programs offering Murray, Oregon, Syracuse, Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois are perceived to be the frontrunners. But without an official decision on whether he will reclassify, it’s tough to label one program as a true frontrunner.

Oregon Has Sights Set on Murray and Maker:

Bob Rickert of The Oregonian wrote that Oregon was expecting to receive a decision from a highly rated player in the 2015 class. While it was most likely from Oregon native Stephen Zimmerman, Rickert speculated that, instead, it could possibly be from Thon Maker.

Rickert believes that there are three factors to consider when it comes to Maker and Oregon.

1. The recruitment of Jamal Murray — Maker’s teammate — could create familiarity.
2. Mississauga native Dillon Brooks is a former CIA Bounce teammate of Murray’s, and could help pitch Eugene to both Murray and Maker.
3. Oregon has had success recruiting in Canada, specifically Ontario, as the Ducks have recruited Devoe Joseph, Dillon Brooks, Olu Ashaolu and more to Eugene.

If familiarity matters to Murray and Maker, the Oregon-Ontario pipeline is certainly something to consider.

Hoosiers Remain Optimistic on Maker:

Ever since Maker visited Bloomington on March 7, rumours of him pledging allegiance to Hoosier Nation have heated up. With head coach Tom Crean on the proverbial hot seat, IU fans are optimistic — more like expecting — he can bring Maker or Thomas Bryant to Assembly Hall next season.

“It’s not going to be about the shoes. One could easily be an adidas school or a Nike school. It’s going to be about the coach, the program itself. Some kids are really into that – ‘I have to go to Nike,’ or ‘Their shoes are ugly.’ I think that mentality is unbecoming, to say the least.” – Ed Smith

Aside from an unofficial visit on March 7, Hoosiers’ fans are linking Maker to IU because of a potential Adidas shoe deal.

While that is fair assumption to make in today’s recruiting world, Maker’s guardian Ed Smith shot that notion down back in October when he told The Courier-Journal that shoes will not factor into Maker’s decision.

Big Blue Nation Looms Large:

Amidst their quest for perfection, recruiting rumours around next year’s Kentucky team have understandably slowed down. But once the Final Four wraps up on Monday night, expect Big Blue Nation to turn their attention back to the recruiting trail.

Both John Calipari and assistant coach Barry Rohrssen have visited Maker already, so expect them to continue making a strong push for him.

For those interested in speculating, a strong connection already exists between Maker, Smith and Kentucky. Whether it be their combine, their use of analytics, or their high success rate of helping players reach the NBA, Kentucky has a number of factors working in their favour when it comes to recruiting Maker.

Reading Between the “Tea Leaves”:

Since many are trying to “read between the tea leaves” when it comes to the recruitment of Maker, in my opinion, here are a couple of factors to consider:

1. Don’t underestimate the relationships built around Smith and Maker

Ed Smith has done everything he can to put both Thon and Matur Maker in the best situation to succeed. They left Australia because he felt it was a “poorly resourced sport”. They left Carlisle Prep because they felt nobody could challenge Thon in practice — height wise. Each decision has been very well thought out, and you can bet that this next decision will be too.

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With much of the recruiting process predicated on building relationships, the opinion of those close to Maker and Smith — like personal coach Justin Zormelo — will factor into their decision.

Considering the documented relationship between the Kentucky staff and Maker, I think it would be fair to assume that the Wildcats are in the lead when it comes to establishing a relationship with Smith and Maker.

2. Structure and continuity will matter

Even though Maker is a likely one-and-done player, a strong coaching staff that can help his development will matter immensely.With that in mind, the idea of Calipari heading to the NBA, or Crean being dismissed at IU, which is very unlikely given his buyout number, will certainly factor into Smith and Maker’s decision.

If coach Cal decides to stay in Lexington, it should bode well for Kentucky’s chances of landing Maker. If he decides to go the NBA, you’d figure Kansas’s chances of landing Maker drastically improve. Bill Self is firmly entrenched as the Jayhawks head coach, and their consistent success at both the college and NBA level is an appealing pitch.

Another reason structure and continuity will matter is because Thon’s little brother Matur will be going through the same process in 2016. In all likelihood, Thon’s experience will affect where Matur ends up playing.

3. Resources and Innovation

Back in November, Smith told Mark Bairos of Hoops Hype Canada that “off the court ingredients” played a pivotal role in recruiting both Thon and Mature to Athlete Institute.

“From facilities and access to everything that you need to go the furthest within this basketball thing, it is all in-house –  nutritionists, masseuses, physical therapists. And because they have a pro team here (NBL Canada’s Brampton A’s), Orangeville Prep gets access to everything the pro’s get access to. You can’t put a value on that,” said Smith.

Pretty much every NCAA Division-I program has access to top-notch resources, so the idea of innovation might be a bigger factor to consider. Smith has made it known that he does not want Thon or Matur restricted to being just post players. Instead, he believes that both players should play freely on the court, which is something he loved about Orangeville Prep.

Coach Calipari shares a similar philosophy, which again bodes well for Kentucky. But Indiana also likes to run a high-octane attack that saw them average 77.4 points per game this past season, which helped them rank as the nation’s No. 11 team in offensive efficiency.

Over the next two weeks, both Maker and Murray will play in a pair of high-profile games. Although basketball players rarely declare their intentions at a game like the Nike Hoop Summit, perhaps Maker and Murray will declare their intentions on Canadian soil during the inaugural BioSteel All-Canadian All Star game. Their announcements would no doubt add extra excitement to what should be a historic night.

Next: One-on-One with Orangeville Prep's Jamal Murray