On The Road: Josh Thornton

<B>CAMDEN, Del. –</b> Laron Profit went to Maryland. Janavor Weatherspoon is at Oklahoma State. Josh Thornton is the next high-major guard to come out of Caesar Rodney. While it's too early to tell where he'll go, the 6-1 junior went for 34 Monday night.

Caesar Rodney High, located just outside of Dover, Del., is the home to one of the better shooters in the Class of 2005. The school benefits – at least it did twice in hoops – from being close to one of the country's largest military bases. Laron Profit, a former Caesar Rodney standout guard and Maryland alum and Thornton both come from families with military backgrounds.

Thornton, who will have a wide array of school choices, lived for six years in Germany and made stops in Japan, Rochester, New Jersey and now Delaware. While it might be tough to call one place home, there's no doubt that his jumper knows the way to the bottom of the net.

Monday night against rival Laurel, Thornton got off to a slow start. He's been banged up all year (most recently a bruised knee) and in the second quarter he turned his right ankle. His missed most of the remainder of the quarter getting it taped up. At the half, Thornton had a pedestrian 5 points and was just 2-for-7 from the floor.

He would not be held down for long.

"I knew I just had to pick it up," Thornton said. "I'm the leader."

During a red-hot, lights out shooting effort after the half, he scored 19 points in quarter number three, including 5 3-pointers. He made one "3" on a turnaround fadeaway. His final shot of the quarter was a 30-footer at the buzzer. Caesar Rodney had rallied from a near double-digit deficit to take the lead. It was time for the team's best player to take over and he did.

Considering the circumstances and that he was moving on a tender ankle, it was fairly impressive. "To tell you the truth, it was an off night. From the start my shot wasn't falling. It's been a rough season, fighting through injury."

Caesar Rodney, one of the top 10 teams in the state, continued to get tested by Laurel. Senior forward Trey Elzey scored his 1000th point and he finished with 24. Elzey's fraternal twin brother Troy tossed in 24 of his own as a 6-point CR lead at the end of the third was trimmed and finally Laurel tied the game to send it into overtime. In the extra period, CR dominated and won the game 88-82 to run its record to 8-1.

Caesar Rodney's lone loss came the first game of the season with Tennessee head coach Buzz Peterson in the stands. "[Coach Peterson] said he gave me back luck because I only had 11 and we lost," Thornton said. "We've been on a streak since then."

According to his coach, Tiff McCullough, Thornton is averaging 23.5 points a game. He's made strides since last season and finished Monday's game with 34 points. "Last year he would settle for a tougher shot. Now he's shot faking and getting more to the basket. He'll be a combo guard in college because he can definitely score."

Even on a bum wheel like he had on Monday, Thornton proved his coach right. Preferring to use shot fakes and let it rip off one dribble, he made 8-of-18 shots from downtown. He took 27 shots in the game and by our count forced just three shots, making two of them.

Right now he's a combo whose best asset is his stroke. He's got confidence and a quick trigger to go with his range. Unlike a lot of "shooters" Thornton is able to create space for himself and get his own looks. He doesn't run off a lot of screens and catch and shoot opportunities are not plentiful so he's creating his own chances and feels comfortable approaching it that way.

Though no colleges were present on Monday, assistants have made Caesar Rodney a popular spot this year. Tennessee, Kansas, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Villanova and Notre Dame have been in. Stanford, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida and Florida State have shown interest.

According to McCullough, Tennessee and Arkansas have offered. Thornton will officially visit Tennessee Jan. 30. Last month he visited Kansas unofficially and has been to Virginia Tech.

"I'm still wide open," Thornton said, not wanting to limit his options at all.

The Dover area is steeped in tradition as Caesar Rodney himself signed the Declaration of Independence. If history repeats itself on the court than this Caesar Rodney guard, like Profit and Janavor Weatherspoon before him, should be a good one.

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