Monday night, Thon Maker stole the show at the adidas Nations championship game at Long Beach City College in Long Beach, CA, as he led Team Lillard to a victory over Team Wall. Maker, ranked No. 1 in the Class of 2016, showcased his talents on both ends of the floor and took advantage of his opponents’ weaknesses.
“I just tried to stay aggressive and at the end of the day play together with the team and just have fun,” said Maker. “The cameras are always on and guys always expect you to shine out, but I just wanted to have fun.”
And what fun Maker had showing his versatility to the crowd, national television and NBA scouts. The 17-year-old 7-footer scored in the post, handled the rock, knocked down the 15-foot jumper with ease and outran his opponent from baseline to baseline. Maker finished the game with 18 points, shooting 6-6 from the field, grabbing 8 rebounds and taking home MVP honors.
After trailing in the first quarter, Team Lillard capitalized both offensively and defensively and took the lead at halftime, 44-28. In the second half, Team Wall, led by Rawle Alkins and Dewon Huell, showed glimpses of a making a comeback, but struggled to cut down the double-digit deficit down the stretch. Team Lillard extended the lead to 33 at one point and never looked back.
Bench play was phenomenal as Mario Kegler finished with 19 points and Eron Gordon also contributed with 16 points. Team Lillard’s bench outscored Team Wall’s, 49-25, and won the battle in the paint, 66-38.
Despite admitting to getting nervous due to playing on national television for the first time, DeAaron Fox came out composed and was one of the main facilitators for Team Lillard. “Stepping out on this court when Ballislife and Hoopmixtape are recording, it didn’t make a difference to me,” said Fox. “It was extra cameras and extra publicity and your friends and family came to watch it. I just came into the game like I would any other game: play my spot and style of game and keep it rolling even if it’s on TV.” Fox finished the game with 13 points and 4 assists.
Throughout the game, he and Dennis Smith Jr played off of each other’s energy. Smith displayed his athleticism with some rim-rocking dunks and his ability to shoot the three. He finished the game with 16 points, 4 assists and Team Lillard took the W, 106-78.
After the team posed for pictures and did post-game interviews, Maker shared his thoughts on what he felt he accomplished during his adidas Nations experience: “I definitely got better. I got to see some of my weaknesses that I need to work on, and obviously need to improve on my body, but that will take time once I get back to the lab. It was really fun. There were some really good players and some really great coaches also.”
Photos courtesy of adidas