Thon Maker eyes NBA return via Boomers' Cup qualifiers

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On the back of a stint with the Long Island Nets to end the 2021-22 G League season, Thon Maker's next step on the road back to the NBA could be in the green and gold, with the big man signalling his interest in playing for the Boomers in next month's FIBA World Cup qualifying window in Melbourne.

Maker suited up in 22 appearances for the Nets, with former AIS Centre of Excellence and Australian Boomers coach Adam Caporn manning the sidelines for the G League team. With some real playing time under his belt, Maker is excited by the prospect of returning to Australia to play in front of home fans.

"I have been approached. I have given it a big thought and it's something I do want to do," Maker told ESPN's Ball and the Real World podcast.

"I haven't been home for a while, I miss my family, I haven't seen them since COVID. It's definitely something I want to do for sure and I'm leaning more towards that. I spoke with Delly last night and he told me he wants to do it. I would love to link up with my guy Delly again."

After a short period with Hapoel Jerusalem to start last season, Maker was thrilled to link up with Caporn in Long Island, who he had previously played under with the national team.

"He was the final decision maker," Maker said. "I had a few teams that I narrowed it down to that I could have played with the G League. I missed the beginning stages of the season but when I got back here in the States I was waiting for my visa, and I was talking to Capes.

"He said this would be the best spot for me and I trusted him immediately because of our history. He told me they were going to build me up slowly, because I hadn't played for a while and that's how guys get hurt. I trusted their plan."

"I really enjoyed playing in Long Island under Adam Caporn, he's been my guy since the World Cup qualifiers a few years back, I've known him for a minute. It was really fun playing for those guys and getting into the playoffs. It was a good year for me overall, I played consistently for the first time in a while. Just to play, get out there and play, it was something I missed and truly enjoyed this past year."

While his minutes were gradually built up, Maker did average 18 points and 10 rebounds in a four-game stretch, in a nice reminder of his capabilities on the floor.

Battling health concerns during the final seasons of his first NBA run, Maker admits he has had to learn how best to take care of himself, which included taking time away from the game.

"Health is the biggest thing I've learned. Being healthy, getting stronger. I think I've really done a good job with my body ever since. I got waived in the James Harden trade for Jarrett Allen and I had a few teams that wanted me to join them. Me and my agency came together and said let's take a year and get fully healthy, heal the ankles and everything I had going on.

"Last year with Long Island was the most consistent I've played and the healthiest I've been since my rookie and second year. I really enjoyed playing the game so much more. When you have your body under control it's so much different than trying to fight through this and that. I really am proud of myself for the amount of work I've put into my body."

Known for his relentless workout regime, Maker admits Caporn and the Long Island staff have attempted to curb his enthusiasm with the eye to last a full season at his best.

"It's something I've been trying to work on this summer. I sat down with Capes and the staff at the Long Island Nets. They were like, tail it back a little bit, take care of your body. Work on the important areas more, pace yourself in workouts.

"If you take a day or two off you'll feel sluggish so it's hard for me to take days off but it's something I'm learning to do now. What I really learned in terms of taking care of my body is lifting the right way, playing the game the right way and practicing the right way. It's all about being solid."

While the rumours will always circulate about a possible NBL showing, Maker's eyes remain firmly in the U.S. and another NBA opportunity. For the next few months, the schedule will include vet camp workouts in the lead up to September training camps.

A strong showing with the Boomers against Japan and China at John Cain Arena would be a boost, with Maker drawing a big smile when asked about the bronze medal winning squad in Tokyo.

"I'm really proud of those guys. Growing up watching the Boomers we always wanted the trophy back, we wanted something, we never wanted them to come home empty handed, and these guys finally did it, they broke through and brought home a bronze.

"But we still want more."

Catch the full conversation with Thon Maker on the Ball and the Real World podcast - Available wherever you get your podcasts.