With perspiration dripping off his brow at Ferris State University's Student Recreation Center, a player leaps high to catch a pass on the left wing. In a split second, he dribbles past a Charlevoix defender and converts a reverse lay-up.
Meet Austin Thornton, Mr. versatility for Cedar Springs (Mich.) High School.
"I play hard all the time," said the 6-foot-6, 190-pound Thornton. "Summer is going great so far."
Thornton, who will be entering his junior year in the fall, has been playing with the Michigan Hurricanes AAU program this summer. This weekend though, he was competing with his high school teammates at FSU's team camp.
"He's so good off the dribble," Cedar Springs head coach Andy Secor said. "Austin brings versatility to the court. He can play the point, a wing or post-up a smaller player in the paint."
Last season as a sophomore, Thornton averaged a double-double, leading the 12-12 Red Hawks in points (19), rebounds (10), and assists (four). His 19 points per game also led the O-K White Conference.
Secor said he expects those numbers to improve in the coming season, especially after this spring.
"Austin is a certified gym rat," Secor laughed. "I had to lock him in the gym all spring. After two-and-a-half hours of lifting weights and open gym, the rest of us were ready to go home but Austin would stay another two to three hours by himself working on his game."
All that hard work is beginning to pay off with Division I college basketball recruiters too, including Central Michigan University.
Thornton said he is hearing from Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Miami (Fla.), Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Ball State.
"I don't have any offers yet," Thornton said. "Michigan, MSU, Notre Dame, CMU and Stanford are my top five."
"Central Michigan, Ball State and Notre Dame are the three schools that have been recruiting him the hardest," Secor said. "It's still early with him and the thing about Austin is he knows he's not there yet."
Thornton said he is working hard to improve his three-point shooting and 24-inch vertical leap.
He also noted that he and his Red Hawk teammates will be attending CMU's team camp in two weeks. Thornton is familiar with the Chippewa program, having attended CMU's 72-63 win over Northern Illinois last January.
"The coaches at CMU are friendly and the student section (Rose Rowdies) is great," Thornton said. "I also like CMU's offense of four out and one in which is what we run at Cedar Springs."
Thornton said he is being recruited as a combo guard at the next level. His size, quickness and ball handling skills could present match-up problems for opposing teams.
"Austin likes a team that gets up and down the floor," Secor said. "He likes an up tempo game."
"I'm definitely still open," a smiling Thornton said. "(CMU head) coach (Jay) Smith and (assistant) coach (Lamar) Chapman have both said they really like my game."
Thornton a Rising Star on Hardcourt
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