The climate of recruiting has changed so much in the last decade that young prospects are saddled with greater expectations to not only produce early in their careers but accelerate their recruiting process at the same time.
At Gonzaga in downtown D.C., one of the top-rated point guard prospects in the Class of 2010 is experiencing the sorts of pressures that accompany a prospect of his stature. With only a single season as a player and starter under his belt, Tyler Thornton is in the midst of his recruiting process.
For Thornton, the process began by being compared to other local talents in what appears to be a point guard-rich crop in the Maryland-D.C. corridor.
"You look at the local message boards and everyone is trying to compare to see who is the best," Gonzaga coach Steve Turner said. "The great thing about Tyler is that he doesn't look at those boards. It's already showed in some of the schools that are recruiting him. He's going to work hard to be the best he can be. There's a lot of schools out here and he's going to have the opportunity to make good decisions for himself."
Thornton understands that there's competition already on the court amongst his peers and competition from the colleges to get in good with the players. "It's a little weird but I got used to it in the beginning," Thornton said. "Right now I kind of have mixed feelings (about the process) because it's really early to be recruited at my age. But, nowadays it's happening really early and its part of the process."
So far Georgetown's John Thompson is the only head coach that has been at the school to see him workout but others are clearly involved. Virginia, William & Mary, Maryland, North Carolina State and Duke are some early programs worth mentioning. Last weekend Thornton was on Maryland's campus and this coming weekend he'll be on Tobacco Road checking out N.C. State and Duke.
"He's been going on some fact finding missions,' Turner said. "He's out there gathering information."
Virginia and Georgetown had he and his parents on their campuses in October as well. "They hadn't really met my parents so it was so they could meet. We sat down, had a conversation and they said they were interested in me playing for them one day. It was kind of first time meeting."
For Thornton, there's absolutely no rushing the process. "But, at the end of the season and throughout the summer me and my family should be able to accumulate a lot of information. I think I'll want to get it over with by my junior year so I can focus on finishing high school and decide where I want to go."
On the court, Thornton averaged 9 points a game as a freshman. His play with the D.C. Assault in the spring and summer only proved his value as a key high-major recruit. Thornton cites his spring play as a launching pad to the success he's enjoyed early in the process.
"I was going back and forth and playing with older guys and then guys my age. It helped me out and I worked on making better decisions on the offensive end. When you play with the older guys you're defense gets better because they're fast, stronger and quicker. In between then I felt like my game grew and expanded."
Turner has the best seat possible as his high school coach to notice and document Thornton's growth. A big time student in the classroom, he's always learning on the court too.
"I really believe that he's mature beyond his years. No. 1 he's a great team player. It's not about himself and he's unselfish. All he wants to do is win and he'll do whatever it takes. I think it's instilled from his parents. It's a big part of the makeup of our program but he had it in him before he got here. At the end of the day it's a big reason why he, the school and the program are a great marriage."