"The fact I'm in the NBA still feels kind of weird."
Seventeen games into the 2016-17 NBA season, and it's all too surreal for Thon Maker as he tries to come to grips with his new life in the NBA.
Maker's journey from highly-touted prospect to unknown NBA commodity after being drafted 10th overall by Milwaukee in June has not been without its bumps in the road.
By his own admission the Sudanese-born Australian still has a lot to learn about the intricacies of the NBA game. His playing time has been sporadic - at best - but that doesn't mean Maker is not utilising his time on the bench to make mental notes of habits he'll need to pick up as a rotation player.
"Simple things like defensive rotations, where the guy's gonna be in the right spots," said Maker. "I hear the coaches behind me yelling to certain guys to be on the floor at a certain time, so for me, I'm watching that from the bench and when I get my chance I'll be ready. That's a great way for me to prepare - I'm seeing it, and in practice I'm going through it so when it comes to games I'll be ready."
It's during vigorous practice sessions where Maker will be able to hone his craft in lieu of playing time for the moment. Whereas some teams may opt to send their rookies to the NBA D-League to develop, the Bucks prefer to keep Maker with them and allow him the luxury of competing against NBA talent daily.
"We're gonna keep Thon up as much as we can," said Bucks' coach Jason Kidd pregame. "Let him go up against Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and Jabari [Parker] in practice. That's the best D-League you can go against. Going against Moose [Greg Monroe] and John [Henson] and Miles [Plumlee], I think that's the best way of getting better [by] going against those guys."
Maker agrees with his coach's assessment.
"Since the draft we been going against each other every single day in practice and I've gotten better by a whole lot," he said. "For me it doesn't make sense if I downgrade from what's making me better.
"In practice it's pretty intense because there is depth not only in my position but others and you never know where you are going to end up on court.So you just go at it every day and compete, it's very competitive and everyone is like that."
Hopes are high that the Bucks will be able to unearth another diamond in the rough with Maker - much like they did with Antetokounmpo - a player with which the Australian shares more than a few similarities.
"I think their build is very similar, athletically they're very similar," Kidd said. "Maker is another 7-footer that can put it on the floor, in the small time that he's gotten on the floor, he understands how to play. It's just a matter of the process of being patient but continuing to work hard."
Maker stresses the importance of staying ready; of preparation being key so when his number is called by Kidd, he's able to deliver. One aspect of his game that he says he is continuing to work on daily is his shooting.
"I work on my shot every day because no one is going to block me at seven-feet tall, good luck to them if they do. I work on pump fakes and stuff but you have to get your shot down first, then you play chess from then on with pump fakes, drives or whatever."
One such chess move brought Maker national attention when he crossed over Chris 'Birdman' Anderson in Cleveland on Tuesday. Anderson couldn't keep up with the more athletic Maker, and ended up on the floor - and SportsCenter highlights.
"I wasn't looking to make a highlight play or anything like that - I was just playing basketball. I was about to use the screen but I saw the defence there and the clock was winding down so I had to go the other way.
"He cut me off and I stepped back - that was just instinct, I wasn't trying to do a highlight play."
Maker's work ethic and ability to create the highlight play bode well for his future in the league, according to Matthew Dellavedova.
"He hasn't been playing but we all see how he has been improving in the weight room and on the practice court," Dellavedova said.
"I think he is going to be a great player in the league and you can see how excited everyone is when he goes into the game and scores or gets a block."