Bucks rookie Thon Maker sets a high standard at summer league

Rookie forward Thon Maker scored 17 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the Bucks' 91-86 loss to the D-League team at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Sunday. Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

LAS VEGAS -- After scoring 17 points and grabbing just as many rebounds Sunday, Thon Maker fumed.

The Milwaukee Bucks rookie forward and No. 10 overall pick in the 2016 draft said his goal during NBA summer league play was to bring energy. Yet, late in his team’s 91-86 loss to the NBA D-League Select team at the Thomas & Mack Center, Maker thought he failed in that regard by surrendering a key rebound that swayed the outcome.

“I didn’t like that at all,” the 19-year-old Maker said. “I didn’t like it one bit because I’ve been grabbing rebounds both of these games and to me they don’t mean anything if I didn’t get that rebound right now. So they still don’t mean anything.”

During his summer league debut on Friday, the 7-foot-1 Maker grabbed 13 rebounds to go along with 15 points, helping lead the Bucks to a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. In all, Maker has produced some of the most impressive stat lines through the first few days of summer league, but his comments Sunday indicated that he’s not overjoyed with his performances.

“So far, it’s been OK,” he said.

That said, the South Sudan native’s transition into summer league has looked relatively smooth, especially as he has showcased his mobility for someone his size.

“It’s been like practice,” Maker said.

Oh?

“Practice has prepared me for this, so it’s been kind of similar to practice,” Maker said. “It’s not much of a big transition. The practice is the part that I needed as a transition. It’s been a major step up in terms of practice from high school to practice, but from practice to here, it’s been the same.”

Maker gained entrance into the draft after convincing the NBA to view his additional year of prep school in Canada as a postgraduate year. By exploiting that loophole, Maker became the first teenager since 2005 to be drafted in the first round without playing a season of college, international or Development League basketball.

Maker entered summer league as bit of a mystery, if only because his basketball résumé isn’t especially long, but his rebounding prowess has definitely earned high marks.

“Just got to find openings,” he explained of his rebounding mindset. “Be aware of where you expect the miss to go. Just read it. Read where the shot is taken from and just go get it. You’ve got to want the ball.”

Does he have a personal checklist for the remainder of summer, goals that he hopes to accomplish? Yes, but he prefers to keep that to himself. For now, he said, he’s just looking to win.

And for himself here at summer league?

“Just try to keep the same [level of] play,” he said. “Or higher.”