AFL 1 year ago

Aliir Aliir proud of cousin Thon Maker

  • Aliir Aliir proud of cousin Thon Maker

    NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23: Thon Maker smiles during his interview after being drafted 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Sydney defender Aliir Aliir beams with pride at the mention of Thon Maker.

Not just because he and the Australian NBA draft pick are both Sudanese - but also because they share the same blood.

Maker is Aliir's cousin, the son of his mother's sister.

It's their common genes, a shared sporting prowess and strength amid adversity that have steered the child refugees to the heights of the AFL and NBA.

Aliir was born in Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp, moving to Australia with his family when he was eight.

Maker spent the first five years of his life in what is now South Sudan before fleeing with some relatives and joining Aliir in Newcastle, then moving to Perth while Aliir's family settled in Brisbane.

Most of what the pair knew then was soccer - a 14-year-old Maker was aptly discovered kicking soccer balls in Perth before developing his basketball game in Sydney, the US and Canada.

Last week the 216cm talent was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th pick of the NBA draft, leaving Aliir ecstatic.

"I've known him pretty much all my life," Aliir told AAP.

"When he came down to Sydney recently I caught up with him.

"Just to see him get drafted shows his commitment and dedication.

"He's gone over to the states at a young age and left his family behind - he's got no one over there.

"And he's worked hard to become an NBA player.

"He achieved that last week so I'm so rapt for him."

Like Maker, Aliir was basketball-crazy as an early teenager before some mates introduced him to AFL.

An Oklahoma City Thunder fan, he's a "Kevin Durant man" to the core.

"But since Thon got drafted I might have to go for the Milwaukee Bucks," he admitted.

Even now as a Swans star the 21-year-old still shoots hoops occasionally, just as he did this week in Sydney at a charity basketball clinic for disadvantaged children.

The focus now is showing kids how far drive can get you, even when you have nothing else.

"Ever since I got drafted I've had little kids who look up to me," Aliir said.

"I sort of had to embrace that challenge of being a role model and try to help as many kids as I can.

"There's a lot of Sudanese kids who are talented, but their mind is probably not in the right place.

"There's issues stopping them from going to the next level.

"I suppose my job is to come to the community and just have a chat to them, give them a word of advice and tell them my pathway and how I got to where I am.

"Hopefully that can inspire them."

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