In the age of mixtape highlight reels for high school players, finding out more information about Matur Maker the individual was difficult. The hours were being spent editing video of his game instead of crafting his words into something that helps the world understand who he is.
It’s unfair to take this one piece you are just starting to read and use it as an accurate description of who Matur Maker is. It’s based on about a 10-minute chat with someone who is not really used to the spotlight and a reserved but personable young man who is slowly poking his way out of a pretty large shadow.
These words should be seen more as a brief, incomplete introduction to a young talent who according to many people is on the verge of breaking out big time.
Of course when people hear the name Maker most think automatically of Thon Maker, the highly-touted South Sudanese/Australian who dominated the high school scene in the United States and then moved north of the border and landed at Orangeville Prep and played last season with Kentucky star freshman Jamal Murray.
And some of those same people quite likely have heard about Matur Maker, the 1998-born younger brother by about 10 months. But not really much is known about Matur.
That led heinnews to Markham, Ontario, on the eastern edges of Toronto for an Athlete Institute Prep high school game against Bill Crothers. Unfortunately, neither Matur nor Thon Maker played in the game. Matur’s been hampered with an injury recently and Thon was kept out because AI Prep has played a number of games recently and both will participate in the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp as part of the NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto.
Still, the trip to Bill Crothers was worthwhile to check in with the Makers and their guardian/coach Edward Smith.
Thon is clearly the more out-going and approachable of the brothers with a big smile on his face and a firm handshake. Matur is cordial but still a bit on the reserved side.
Matur is told that there’s not much information about him on the internet, especially compared to his brother, who is active on social media. Then Matur is asked, please tell us a little bit about Matur Maker, and he gets right down to, let’s call it, “business”.
“So, for me, basketball wise, I’m a point forward. That’s my position. I like to stay off social media. It’s a lot of distraction for me – ah, you’re the little brother in the shadows. I just try to stay off that and be me and do my game and work on myself.”
To the follow-up question “What kind of person are you?”, he offers up: “I’m a nice person.” And then smiles.
He does reveal that he really enjoys English class in school and that he likes “working with poems”.
And Matur did provide a little about the long journey that took him, Thon and Ed Smith from Australia to the United States and then on to Canada.
“It’s a lot. You have to get used to it, going from place to place. I think I’ve gotten used to moving a lot now. It’s been a great experience being alongside Thon and Coach Smith.”
It’s About Basketball
But it’s clear that basketball is what Matur’s here to talk about.
This weekend will be a big one for both Makers at the BWB Global Camp.
“I feel really confident. I’ve been really preparing and working on my game, staying sharp and working on my mistakes that I did at the last Basketball Without Borders in the Dominican Republic. I got a lot of feedback from the coaches and I needed to learn from that, and fix a few things up. But I feel ready,” said Matur.
“I’m expecting big things. I’m expecting the talent to be really tough because it’s an All-Star camp. A lot of good guys will be there. You just have to go there, do what you have to do, learn a lot.”
The camp will be a great chance for him to learn a lot of things.
“I’m going to learn a lot, especially from the coaches and some of the NBA players and assistants. Even trainers, even if you might not know that. How to protect your knees. I’m tall so that’s a factor. A lot of guys in the league get hurt so you have to learn how to prevent those things.”
It will also be a chance for him to get back out on the court as he’s been dealing with injuries, which have kept him from helping his team.
“It’s really really disappointed. I’m just really, really fired up on the bench. The last couple of weeks there have been some games I have wanted to play and get some stops in them.”
Being off the court has given Matur a chance to learn more things from Thon, who is clearly the leader of the AI Prep team.
“I take a lot from the relationship, not just on the court but off. There are so many little things I pick off him. Also a lot on the court, there are so many things I’ve picked off him. And now that I’ve been out I’ve been picking up so many things from him starting from the point all the way down to the bench.”
Matur is taking all these pieces and forming his own game – that of a point guard, at 6-foot-10.
6-10 Point Guard
“I’m working on being a point guard, just a relaxed pace. I’m working on my ball-handling every day. Just picking up from different guards and learn to really dominate my position.”
When asked about which players he watches, Matur answered: “I was looking at Gary Payton from back in the old days, a little bit of Magic (Johnson). I’ve been watching a lot of those, trying to pick off the littlest things they do. Also the kind of play now from Kevin Durant and LeBron (James). They take their time, which is what the league is. Relax and do what you have to do.”
Guardian Smith was surprised himself about hearing Matur watches highlights of the “Glove”.
“The dynamic thing about Matur is that he can guard four positions on the floor – from one to four. He’s our toughest defender. When he said he watches Gary Payton, I didn’t know that. He gets after it. He watches Michael Jordan on defense. He watches a lot of tape about practices. He’s a student of the game. A lot of people will be shocked with how good he is,” said Smith.
“He’s so versatile with the ball. He’s a big guard. He doesn’t have the frame to play the four or the five at the next level. He’ll be either the three or the one. He shoots it well enough to be the three or the one. He doesn’t shoot it well enough to be the two. But he’s a nightmare. He can defend. He’s the new NBA position-less player. He’s working hard on his skills.”
Matur came out of his reserved shell a bit during the interview, just like he’s building his own reputation on the court – slowly but surely getting out of the shadow of Thon.
That shadow will be gone next season when Thon heads to the United States to attend an as-yet undetermined college. And one could definitely get the sense that Matur is waiting for that to happen – even though he knows it will be a challenge.
“It’s gonna be tough. I’ve always been under his shadow. I was never really there. People didn’t really know me. Now with me having my own team it will be like starting from the bottom. You start all over again. You have to be the guy and try to get as many wins as you can. It’s gonna be tough, but I’ll make it through it.”
Matur also knows he will get regular updates from Thon at college and will use that to help improve his own game.
“I would like to have my own team where I can work and get better at the position I want to play. I want a team that can also be like hey you’re the point and you can run the show. I can learn from that and go to the next level.”
Which level that exactly is for Matur remains unclear.
Smith hinted that Matur might be Europe-bound after finishing his time in Canada rather than college.
“He’s more of a kid who could play in a place like France, where they see the game from a different light. They use people in different positions. He’s a kid who could play internationally. His path could be college but his path could be pro also.”
When asked directly if playing in Europe is a serious consideration for Matur, Smith reiterated: “For him, yes, a serious consideration because he’s versatile enough with the ball and defenseively. His path doesn’t have to be the collegiate route such as Thon. That gives us something to see and investigate as Thon moves forward. And then we’ll review what it looks like with Thon and college.”
Matur might well get more international exposure this year as he’s eligible to play for Australia in the 2016 FIBA Oceania U18 Championship – which serves as the qualifier for the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship.
“Regarding Australia, yes, we should have time this summer,” Smith said.
Thon was unable to play at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship because of school issues – trying to get him ready to possibly go to college.
But Smith would love to see Matur play for Australia this and next summer.
“I think it would be great. I want to see him at the U19s. That’s something that’s really good for him.”
In the mean time, Matur is happy and satisfied being in Orangeville with AI Prep about an hour north of Toronto.
“It’s a great place. You really don’t have anything to do but school and basketball and stay focused.”
And write poetry about the greatness of Gary Payton.