Kevin Garnett says Thon Maker has 'a chance to be special'

When an apparently bored-with-retirement Kevin Garnett strode into a Milwaukee Bucks training session in early December, the motive for his visit was unknown; but after working out with the team's prodigious young talents Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker, the 15-time All-Star left Bucks coach Jason Kidd with a simple message about the Sudanese-Australian.

"Thon has a chance to be special," Garnett told him.

Later, while hosting his NBA TV Area 21 television show, Garnett continued to shower praise on Maker.

"I guess for me, I'm looking at these kids and the biggest question is the appetite," Garnett said.

"I wonder with these young kids today what their appetite is. For me, that tells you who they are: The work ethic, wanting to be better.

"Thon Maker, he was refreshing. Just having an appetite and being in there [like], 'I want to work on this.'"

Maker had played just a handful of games when Garnett first mentored him, and such high praise from a legend at such an early stage of his career did not go unappreciated.

But Maker, in true style, understands there's still work to be done.

"It's very exciting, but at the same time it means you have a lot in front of you to take care of," he said.

"It also means you've done some good because they can see it. They see glimpses so you just gotta keep doing what you're doing."

It's fitting that Garnett recognised Maker's work ethic from the get-go given that he, too, displayed a fierce determination to get better from the moment he arrived on the NBA scene as a prep-to-pro phenom.

In just a short amount of time, Maker has earned a reputation as a student of the game, showing a ravenous appetite for working on his craft.

"He loves to play and he works extremely hard," Kidd said.

"He's put himself in this position because he's worked hard. He's been patient with the process."

Minutes have been infrequent for the Bucks rookie, but Maker prides himself on putting in the work behind the scenes so he's prepared for anything when his number is called.

He's always looking to add something new to his repertoire.

Maker already possesses nifty footwork and has the ability to pass and shoot like a guard, so he knew he needed to add something else when it came time to ask Garnett for advice on improvements to his versatile game.

"With him [Garnett] we worked a lot on my face-up game," Maker said.

"Using my quickness and my speed against whoever is guarding me, there's an answer for it. Whenever I ask him questions like, 'What if I have this type of a player on me?', he told me, 'Okay, you'll go to this move and this move'.

"After I finished talking to him I just wanted to go and try [the moves] right away and see what happens."

Maker has appeared in just 29 of the Bucks' 55 games leading into this weekend's All-Star break, and aside from the noticeable muscle he's gained since being drafted, he's seen vast improvements to his game as well.

"I improved a lot," he said.

"My body, firstly, [but also] my reads of the game. My shooting has gone up just being able to get a lot of reps in."

Maker is backing himself to succeed, recently telling Bleacher Report that he is going to be an All-Star, an NBA champion and a multiple winner of the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award.

Where does a still-developing rookie's confidence stem from to make bold statements like that?

"That's from me challenging myself wanting to be great. I don't want to be regular. I want to be great," Maker asserted.