Basketball Australia, for now, have made their pitch to superstar talent Thon Maker about playing for the Aussies in the future. Now they will just wait for the top player from the 2016 class to make his decision.
“The ball’s in his court,” Australia U17 national team coach Mark Watkins told heinnews.
Waktins actually could be coaching Maker at this summer’s 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship if everything had gone through as quickly as the Aussies had hoped.
Maker, an enticing mix of talents in a long, slender package, was born on February 25, 1997 in what is now South Sudan and moved to Australia as a child before eventually heading to the United States with caretaker Ed Smith in 2011.
Maker, who plays high school basketball in Virginia, has never played on any national team and is therefore open to choose – most likely between the Australians and the United States.
Senior national team head coach Andrej Lemanis went to the United States to talk to Maker in March and see where Basketball Australia fit into the young star’s future.
“We did put it to him if he wanted to join the squad. The logistics of that just wasn’t possible with his schooling in the U.S. and his coming over to Australia for the team camps and the preparing. So that was left at the side for now,” said Watkins.
“I know that Andrej has left the door open for him to be involved in the Boomers program if and when he’s ready to do that. And Andrej would like him to attend.”
“We had a good meeting with Andrej Lemanis,” Ed Smith, Maker’s legal guardian, was quoted as telling SNY.tv.
“He worked Thon and [his brother] Matur out. He told me he was impressed with Thon’s skill level and wanted to get him into the National program as soon as possible. He felt that Thon could be a contributor in 2016 and an exciting part of the team at both of the forward spots in the future.”
Smith added: ““We will keep building our relationship in order to figure out if it’s a ‘win-win’ for Australia and Thon.”
Watkins said he doesn’t expect a decision in the near future, adding: “At this stage, Australia still wants Thon playing for Australia but with the logistics of when and where that happens, well I guess we’ll find out in the next year or two.”
The 17-year-old Maker would be eligible to play for Australia next summer at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship – should Australia, as expected, qualify.
“He’s good enough,” said Watkins.
Again, the biggest obstacle is the thousands of miles between Maker and the Australians’ training camp as well as the timing, given Maker’s schooling commitments.
The issue is not just a problem with Maker, as Watkins pointed out.
“That becomes a problem now for young Australians who are eligible for Australian teams who are in high school or college (in the United States). This is a problem that Australia is going to face now. If and when we hold camps, do we leave the door open for those guys and how do we work with them and how do we monitor them? It’s something that Basketball Australia is thinking about right now.”
Waiting for Maker’s answer is just one part of the issue.