The season may have ended yesterday but the strive to make the program better never ends. Recruiting never stops! Time to go in depth on 2016 Top 10 Point Guard Derryck Thornton.
Here is your basic info:
Name: Derryck Thornton
Position: Point Guard
High School: Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nevada)
AAU: Simply Fundamentals
Current Offers: Cal, Arizona, Duke, Michigan, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina State, UNLV, USC
This is going to be a serious recruiting battle. As it stands it looks like Duke is the front runner, but with Thornton and his parents stating that he will be making a visit to Cal this April it seems as though the Bears are not merely an offer. The real kicker with this recruit is about his class. He is currently a top ten prospect in the 2016 recruiting class, but he has revealed that he could reclassify himself to the 2015 class. It's said both Duke and Louisville have offered him scholarships in both years, if he does want to make the switch. It is unsure whether Cal has given him the same offer, but this will be an interesting recruiting battle over the course of the next few months. That being said, Let's take a look at what he brings to the table.
- Offensive Awareness and Prowess. You could say his basketball IQ is amazingly high as well. The kid understands how to run an offense. He understands spacing is key and directs positioning through his own movements. Even at NBA Top 100 camp he understood how his teammates played and recognized where they would be despite only playing with them over the duration of the camp. But coupled with his awareness is his ability to finish the play in all regards. Derryck's mid-range game is already one of his best weapons and he is already able to finish at the rim with either hand.
- Mastery of the Pick-n-Roll Offense. This ties in with his awareness, but Thornton has an extremely keen eye to recognize how his defender has reacted to the pick set for him. He makes the most efficient decision in order to score. One key thing I noticed in his tape is his ability to turn the corner on a pick. Thornton naturally lowers his body on the pick allowing him to "disappear" from his defender the split second he runs around the pick, and from this he surveys the defense and decides how he would like to attack. If a defender comes over the top he hits the lead pass to the roll, and if the defense comes underneath he drives to the basket or pulls up for a mid-range jumper.
- Point Guard Skills. Derryck is already a complete point guard with his ball handling, passing, footwork and change of speed, all of which are top notch. Thornton has one of the quickest crossovers that I have seen. It's no wonder that some people called him a young Kyrie Irving at the mere age of 15. He keeps the ball low on his crossovers and makes sure they stay close to his body on ones between the legs and in front of him. His footwork is already solid and he is never flatfooted allowing him to explode into his first step at a defender. Whether it be from the triple threat position or off the dribble, Thornton is able to break his defender down forcing a collapse of the defense. From there he is able to make a play by either finishing to the basket, rising up over the sliding the defender or creating an opportunity for one of his teammates. He's also turning into a lock down defender by using his quick feet. His anticipation and reaction also helps him to attack the ball handler and make sure he is off rhythm. This season alone he has forced 15 drawn charges and 25 5-Second violations.
- Strength. This is only a weakness for now considering he only 17 years old. He has grown an inch over the last year and jumped 15 lbs. Just going to show that he is still growing and maturing into his body. Because he plays with quickness and can get to the rim, a concern would be his durability with such a frame. Creating a work out menu to balance building strength and body support while not losing his speed and explosion will be a task for the S&C Coach (which I think Coach Nicodemus can do a great job at).
- Perimeter Shooting. Derryck already has a solid mid-range jump shot. And his form is very consistent with a shotgun like release from his set point. I don't think that it will be very difficult for him to increase his range and also be consistent. That will grow with his muscle conditioning and stamina as well. But from the tape that's available, he does not take many 3-PTs which is fairly odd for a point guard in the current generation of molds. Recruits usually have molded games towards current point guards who love to shoot beyond the arc (a la Stephen Curry or Kyrie Irving). Either he doesn't need to at the moment or he hasn't fully developed that aspect of his game yet. And If it's the former he will have to start knocking down those shots with ease and consistency to play the PG spot like he says he does.
How He Fits with the Cal Team:
- This is a very peculiar situation at PG with the Bears. Coach Cuonzo currently has Tyrone Wallace, Sam Singer and Brandon Chauca at the 1 spot. In the scenario that Thornton stays in 2016, it becomes easy, Tyrone will have graduated, leaving Sam and Derryck to battle it out for the starting job. It will be interesting seeing such a highly touted recruit battle a tested senior for the starting role. Bringing in Derryck would give Cal the chance to reel in some other major recruits in 2016 to pair with him, such as Zach Collins or M.J. Cage. If Thornton were to reclassify into the 2015 class, our recruitment would be geared towards allowing him to slowly adjust to the next level. If Tyrone returns, our PG rotation would become Ty, Sam and Derryck, relieving any pressure or stress out of any Cal fan watching Brandon Chauca or Jordan Mathews having to be the primary facilitator. Being in 2015 also brings scholarship issues into play if we happen to bring Rabb and Swanigan into the fray. Bringing our scholarship number to 4 in this recruiting class, almost certainly ending Christian Behrens Cal Career. At the same time, the buzz around the program with a recruiting class of Thornton, Rabb, Swanigan, and Dillard, would catapult the Bears into unknown realms...the national kind.
Derryck Thornton looks like the real deal. Whether he decides to join a program this year or next year. Any team looking for a point guard will be ecstatic to have this man. Without a doubt, it will be a battle for this prospect. And having him even consider us along with NCAA Powerhouse schools like Duke and Kentucky should mean that he is at the very least interested in what our program has to offer. It won't be easy, but Coach Cuonzo and Hufnagel have done a great job so far in gaining the attention of big name recruits. Whose to say they won't draw some in to come play in Haas Pavillion soon?