It is hard to believe we’re already talking about 2020 Purdue basketball targets, but with the 2018 class locked in (save Tyger Campbell, if he decides to come) Matt Painter is already working on 2019. I got to see the one member of that 2019 class tonight in Isaiah Thompson, the younger brother of P.J. Thompson, as I do most weeks since I moonlight as a reported for the Zionsville Times-Sentinel.
As it happens though, Thompson was playing against Hamilton Southeastern, which is full of potential Division I talent. Zionsville entered at 11-0 tonight and ranked 4th in the state, while HSE was 12-2 and ranked 8th. Aaron Etherington is a solid 6’7” wing that has interest from Indiana and Butler for the 2019 class, while Mabor Majak is a 7’1” center prospect in the 2020 class orginally from South Sudan.
Majak has come a long way to reach Central Indiana, as seen from the profile the Gregg Doyel did on him in the Indianapolis Star:
The war began on a Sunday. Mabor remembers that. Since that December day in 2013, he has lost brothers, uncles and an aunt in the South Sudanese Civil War. The fighting was still going on that day in April 2015 — it’s going on now — when Mabor got out of the car and took the first uncertain step toward his new life.
“Scared,” Mabor remembers. “Just so scared.”
It was cold that first day. April in Indiana, 50 degrees tops, and Mabor Majak was shivering in his skinny jeans and button-down shirt, the nicest clothes he owned, pretty much the only clothes he owned.
His guardian here in the U.S. runs the AAU program that Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell, and Kyle Guy played for, but that doesn’t mean he is an Indiana lock. Majak has already been on campus at Purdue at least once for an unofficial visit and Purdue has interest. Given the way that Matt Painter has developed bigs in his career Purdue would definitely be a program where he could develop.
We’ll have competiton though. Although he is just a sophomore, the kid clearly has some talent. Obviously, you can’t teach 7’1”, but he is more than a totally raw prospect. HSE ended up dominating the final three quarters in a 78-50 win, and Majak played a role. I had him with 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting to go with 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and several shots he “influenced” because of his reach. Even at 7’1” he has an incredible wingspan, much like a hawk. Isaiah Thompson tried to drive the lane several times only to find Majak there.
That’s what threw off Thompson’s game, too. Isaiah finished with 18 points, but was just 5 of 18 from the field and 1 of 10 from three. He didn’t get to the line much, either, with only 7 free throw attempts after several games with 18 or more.
Majak still has a lot to develop. He is a very skinny 7’1”, making Matt Haarms look like Isaac Haas. He is light on his feet though. He showed me good anticipation with a pair of effortless putback dunks. He was always looking to dunk first at the basket, as I believe 4 of his 6 made field goals were dunks. Zionsville is a team with a solid 2-3 zone designed to deny him the ball, and they had a decent amount of size too. He was still effective on both ends. He was the perfect anchor for HSE’s own zone, and with plenty of scoring around him (all five HSE starters finished in double figures, including Etherington with 21. Chaz Birchfield, a 2018 player with a Kent State offer, also benefitted from his presence with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Majak would be a good fit for us because of our history of developing bigs. He still has two more high school seasons to develop too, but he is not as awkward as many 7-foot tall 16-year-olds are. He didn’t have a chance to show much of a touch beyond the basket, but he has the potential to be an elite rim protector. I think his defense will be where he stands out at first at the next level, while the offense will come. He has already mastered the “grab the rebound and dunk in one motion” move though, so that’s good.
Will he end up at Purdue? We’ll have to wait and see, but he is definitely on the radar.