Duke making early strides with Thornton

One of the best point guards in the country has picked up interesting from the Blue Devils recently. Will being new to the party hinder Duke’s efforts with Derryck Thornton? The five star guard spoke about that an more this week.

I heard that prior to our call you were recording a track in a music studio?

Derryck Thornton, Jr.: That’s just something I do for fun. My dad makes my music, we just do beats and I was just making music. 

Derryck Thornton, Sr. Yeah I’ve been producing music for about 20 years. I’ve worked with everybody from Christina Aguilera, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Rihanna, bunch of people over the years.

You do basketball training as well, is that right Mr. Thornton?

Sr: Yeah, Impact Performance Training. I only like two things, basketball and music. I wouldn’t do anything else. I was a DJ since I was 12 years old and I scored TV shows like My Wife and Kids, the Boondocks, The Game show that comes on BET. That’s how I pay for our house, gotta make a living somehow.

Derryck, I noticed on Twitter you going back and forth with Rob McClanahan, one of the NBA’s best player trainers…

Jr: Yeah, Steph Curry’s guy. He was pretty good, actually he was great. I was at Steph Curry’s camp and he was there and I built a pretty good relationship with him and got some work in.

How did your game improve and what did you learn from working with Rob?

Jr: He taught me a lot of little stuff and reminded me of that stuff I had learned from my dad. My dad has pretty much taught me everything that I know and Rob taught me a lot of little stuff like how to use your hands on offense, how to create space and just creating space off the dribble and different footwork drills.

Sr: He taught a lot about how to shrink up space too, especially with your shooting space so that guys can’t get back into you to contest your shot. There was a lot of good pro stuff.

What led you to be so serious about working on Derryck’s game to this level?

Jr: When I was young, I didn’t play a lot on this team and my dad asked me if I wanted to be really good and I told him yeah. He then told me that I was going to have to work out every day and really get after it and ever since then we’ve been going at 6 AM and putting in a lot of extra work and that’s what drives me to continue to do that.

How are you recuperating from the hand injury Derryck?

Jr: I’m doing alright today,I just got a cast put on today. I should be out a little bit but not too long. It’s a hard cast, I have it on for two weeks and then I go in for another checkup and an x-ray and then go from there.

Was the injury in your primary ball-handling/shooting hand or your off hand?

Jr: It’s my off hand. I’m doing alright though, I was pretty close at USA but I think I did the best I could and I did everything I’m supposed to. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go your way.

Aside from the injury, how was the USA Camp experience for you?

Jr: It was great. I had a lot of fun and I got to compete against some great players and build some good relationships with some of the players off the court and I learned a lot while I was there. 

Which players did you get to build better relationships with?

Jr: I built a pretty good relationship with Harry Giles off the court, a better relationship with V.J. King, Jayson Tatum, Caleb Swanigan, those are probably the most. I knew Jayson and I knew a few of them before but I just got a lot closer with them because you are with them pretty much all day. You are with the same guys so you are going to get closer with them which was pretty cool.

What did you learn about those guys above that you didn’t know before?

Jr: We’re kids so we just talked about school, talked about basketball and just talked about life. We talked about what we like to do on and off the court. We touched base a little bit about recruiting stuff but not too much. I think people in my class we’re still pretty early to the situation and process and we aren’t making decisions anytime soon.

One part of the recruiting process you seem to be taking advantage of is visiting schools unofficially, can you provide an update on what schools you have visited unofficially so far?

Jr: We went to USC, UCLA, San Diego State, Arizona, Michigan, Kentucky, UNLV, Louisville, I think that’s it.

For both of you—was there anything that you saw on any of those visits that just completely blew you away or caught your attention in a major way?

Sr: There actually was a lot of stuff. The facilities at Michigan are just ridiculous, the gym at Kentucky where they play is ridiculous, Louisville’s gym is ridiculous, the campus at Michigan was really kind of cool too. Then back in LA, USC, it’s home and Arizona’s fan base, it’s a real college town and definitely with San Diego, it’s on the water which is great. There’s certain things at all the schools with the facilities and other things which were just awesome.

Did you guys interact with the head coaches a lot on those visits?

Sr: Oh yes. 

Jr: Yeah the conversations when great in my opinion, all the coaches seemed cool. All of the support has been great.

Since those visits, who has made a big priority to stay in communication with you guys and make a consistent effort to be at your summer games?

Sr: I wouldn’t say one school in particular stands out, I’ve noticed that Florida has been at every game, Kentucky has been at every game, I’ve noticed UNLV is at every game. I’ve noticed Duke’s been picking up and coming to a lot of games, I’ve noticed Michigan has been at every game with their whole coaching staff pretty much. Kevin Ollie from UCONN has been at pretty much every game. USC came in the spring when he was at a really small tournament and we were like wow and then Michigan popped up. There’s been several guys who have been sticking out as far as I’m concerned and as far as communication goes, i talk to a bunch of coaches and Derryck will have to tell who the coaches are that he talks to the majority of the time. 

Jr: As far as coaches, I talk to recently, the most recent is probably Duke. Kentucky does a great job at talking with me regularly, Michigan talks to me a lot and Miami talks to me a lot. Florida, UNLV, Cal Berkeley has done a good job, UConn, schools like that have all done a good job talking with me. 

Based on my research, it seems like Kentucky is strong player in your recruitment as well, correct?

Sr: I’d like to answer that if I could. It’s Kentucky, and Kentucky’s point guards always do well and a lot of them are NBA guys. So if you are one of the better point guards in the class and Kentucky comes after you and Kentucky wants you, they get a lot of the guys they go after, especially at that position. It’s a coveted scholarship at a coveted position at a coveted university so I can understand why their fan base and why anybody in the media would assume that first and foremost.

How much has Coach Calipari prioritized talking with you both ? Has he made Derryck feel like he’s a top priority?

Jr: Yeah he calls me at least three times a week. He reaches out all the time to check on me and see how i’m doing. I feel like he does a great job at expressing how he feels. It’s been pretty good so far, he’s a great coach and he’s just been telling me how it is, he’s been great so far.

I wanted to follow up on you mentioning Duke earlier—can you shed some light on what their approach has been?

Sr: They’ve been coming along and Coach K is doing a lot right now, he’s got USA Basketball with the big boys so he’s gotta focus on that at this point in time. They have expressed interest and I think that’s it.

How recent has the communication been with them?

Sr: Pretty recent I would say, last few weeks. They have shown up at Derryck’s games. 

What’s Duke’s pitch been so far since they are relatively new to Derryck’s recruiting process?

Sr: You know same stuff, very good school, very good education with a legendary coach. There are so many good coaches you know ? Coach K is awesome, Beilein is awesome, Calipari’s awesome, Pitino’s awesome, Donovan’s awesome, KO is awesome, Kevin Ollie. There’s so many coaches that are awesome that it’s not like there’s a “pitch” from Duke, we are just building a relationship now.

What’s your reaction been to the timing of Duke’s entry into Derryck’s recruitment?

Sr: I mean, I feel like Derryck’s a rising junior, we got two more years of high school. I haven’t put that much into it yet because his focus is on getting better and my focus is on getting him better as well, so that’s what we’re focused on right now.

To follow up, I remember at NBA Top 100 Camp you shared that things seemed to be coming together in Derryck’s recruiting process and it sounded like you guys had the interest from schools you were looking for and your timetable may not take as long—has anything changed with that in your minds now that the summer is wrapping up?

Sr: It’s still not we’re going to drag it out all the way to the last moment, we’ve never talked about that, that’s not how it is. Right now until at least until school starts, all we want to focus on is getting better and lets work on things that we need to work on. That’s kinda really what I want him to focus on and get his hand right. I do hear what you are saying, especially with schools coming in or going out and that’s cool, I think right now I want him to get healthy, that’s our number 1 concern. Once we do that, then we can start talking about narrowing it down, but we’re not there yet.

Do you think you guys need to take a lot more visits to get more of a bead on the situation with any schools?

Jr: I think i’m pretty good right now as far as un-officials go. 

Are there any teams you will pay close attention to this season?

Jr: I always watch college basketball that’s for sure, especially schools that are recruiting me. We just kinda break down the pros and cons of each school and see what school fits me best.

From a fit perspective—every guy has their own idea on what’s a good fit from a school perspective. In your opinions—what’s a good offensive and defensive fit for Derryck in college?

Sr: Space, pick and roll, up tempo with the basketball. Lot of pressure, man to man on ball defense. We want to get after it, he wants to get after it and I want that for him too. I want him to play fast, is that about it D?

Jr: Yeah, I think spacing is important too, a lot of space is important and I’d like to get into transition and make plays, I think that’s it.

Let me follow up on the spacing comment if i may—some teams will achieve good spacing by having good shooters on the floor. Other will achieve good spacing by having a big man or two on the court. Does either type of spacing approach present any advantage for Derryck in your minds or are they both equally good?

Sr: That’s a good basketball question Steve, you’ve been paying attention I like that. You know what I like the most is if he’s with two bigs, I like to see him play with one big on the opposite post because I want there to be driving lanes by having motion on the backside, driving lanes being created by off-ball movement. So, there’s some NBA sets that work good as well, anything that the Spurs do is just awesome. The way they use Duncan and the kid and Parker can still find his way around and the corners, they are just so, there’s so much room to operate it’s just great.

Do you guys pay attention to how schools do their spacing year to year in their offensive sets?

Sr: Oh yeah, you definitely have to because if you have a dominant point guard who is just awesome and maybe you have a big man who isn’t as awesome but is still good, you aren’t going to run the same offense that you would with Patrick Ewing or another dominant big. I remember, Derryck doesn’t even know this, growing up I was a big Georgetown fan. Georgetown was all about the bigs, I mean all about the bigs and then, one year he got Allen Iverson and he changed everything completely. I remember thinking as an adult, because I was an adult by that point, I thought that that guy could really coach because he went from having center after center after center with pros after pros after pros to having one of the best small point guards potentially ever and make an offense that works for him as well. You look at all of those different variables and where he fits, someone said to me one time that when you pick a school, you pick it for education first, a coach second, system third and playing time fourth and I say that to my son and that’s what we’re looking for when it comes to a school.

Speaking of playing time, I know many point guards will look at the potential depth chart when they are going into college as they evaluate their decision…how much are you guys looking at that with the schools that are seriously recruiting Derryck?

Sr: Of course yeah, for sure. 

Are you guys looking for a place where Derryck can go in right away and be the man at the point guard spot right away? Is that a fair read?

Jr: I don’t like being the man, just somewhere where you can be able to make a few freshman mistakes and learn how to play through some early mistakes. Have a little bit of freedom to where you can make some mistakes and learn and still feel comfortable. 

Do you think it’s a more favorable option then to go to a school who may have an upperclassman at the point guard spot or is it more ideal to go in and Derryck is the primary guy at the point guard spot and you can learn on the job?

Jr: I feel like I want to come in and be the primary ball handler and I think that would be more ideal for me.

Sr: I feel like if he’s ready then why not but if he’s not, then learning from an established guy and learning those things, I’m not really opposed to that. Two years from now, if he shows that he’s able to come in and start and handle the load and try to lead somebody to a national championship, then why not?

Schools are taking a different approach to recruiting it seems year to year. Schools like Kentucky tend to bring a big class every year while others bring in staggered classes each year—what’s your thoughts on those approaches as you evaluate Derryck’s potential fit?

Sr: I don’t think so, would you like to maybe go in with some guys from your class, probably yeah. It’s really just about what fits, what makes the most sense for you, that’s the most important thing because everybody is different. There isn’t one answer that fits everyone and it’s going to come down to what fits Derryck the best. I’m always going to stress to him that it’s ultimately it’s his call while stressing to him to make sure he knows if a school fits, is that situation the best fit for you and for your game so he can make the best decision for him at the right time.

Derryck—are you looking for a demanding coach, or one who takes a more low-key approach?

Jr: I think someone who does a little bit of both, someone on and off the court who will laugh and have a sense of humor and be able to interact with his players. But I also want someone who teaches me and I want to be able to learn and who can help me to get to my goal in the end, which is the NBA. 

Do you have a potential timeframe in mind Derryck for when you are hoping to go pro? One year and then declare or is it evaluate at the end of each year and make a decision?

I think it’s more akin to the second one, just kinda see how it goes. If I feel like I’m ready after two or three years that’s fine, I don’t want to rush out just because my goal is to get to the League. I feel like when I’m ready, I’m just going to see how the season pans out and then I’ll think about if i’m ready to leave. 

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