One on one with Derryck Thornton

Before he headed off to Durham to begin his college career, Las Vegas area point guard Derryck Thornton sat down with TDD to discuss his prep career, his training program for this past summer, and what he hopes to accomplish as the Blue Devils' floor general.

Now that you are heading to Durham, what’s going through your head?

Derryck Thornton Jr.:  I’m real excited, I can’t wait to get out there and get ready for this season. I imagined it but it’s been pretty crazy and it’s been coming super quick, I’m just really excited. 

How did the summer go in regards to finishing your remaining requirements?

I had a few classes I had to finish this summer since I skipped my senior year.  So I did those few classes and then I did a whole bunch of workouts, lifting, getting into the gym.  I gained a lot of weight through that, and I was also in the gym working on my game with the NBA guys.

What was it like being able to work with the NBA guys that came through the gym you were working out of?

It was great, it’s a great opportunity to get in those guys since they are all NBA players. It was a great experience and they really helped me out a lot. I’m really fortunate to have been able to work out with a lot of those guys.

We noticed that you got to sit with Coach K and Jabari Parker at a basketball event in Vegas.  What was that like?

It was great, we were actually watching Jayson Tatum play a few weeks ago.  I also got to talk with Jabari [Parker]  for a little bit and it was great getting to talk some more with Coach K. He’s one of the best ever, I’m just ready to get out there and get everything started.

What were the main takeaways for you from those conversations?

We talked about being prepared mostly.  I talked to Jabari and he was telling me that Coach K is one of the best ever so you have to be prepared to listen to everything he says and soak it all in. That was probably his best advice in the little time I was able to talk with him.

How would you say your relationship with Coach K and the rest of the coaches evolved? 

It’s been great. I talk to everyone. The coaching staff is great, they reach out and I pretty much talk with all the coaches pretty much every day. We talk about what we have planned for this upcoming season, their expectations and all the things we are looking forward to getting started coming up soon. 

What are Coach K’s expectations for you and the team this year?

Just come out there, play my hardest and lead. We talk about that a lot and playing with confidence, those kinds of things.

How much has he discussed with you what he hopes for you to do or bring on both ends of the court?

A little bit but not too much yet.  He’s talked a lot about leading, being able to come out there and manage and lead the team, that’s what he talks about the most.

You are continuing a long line of talented point guards at Duke with Kyrie and Quinn and Tyus and many others—what has the staff said in that area?

He has talked a little bit about that, but they really talk with me about what kind of things I can do with my game.  They talk about getting the ball up and down the court, playing a fast paced type of game.  That’s what he’s talked with me about a lot.

What are your thoughts on your fellow teammates and the team you will be playing with this year?

I’m really excited because we have a lot of great pieces and I really feel like it’s going to be a great season. I feel like we have great pieces that can work together and hopefully win a national championship.

Have you already developed any good friendships with anybody on the team?

I talk to pretty much everybody on the team on a weekly basis. I’m anxious to get out there and build even better relationships with all the guys.

What kind of things have you been discussing week to week with the guys?

We’ve been talking about school and the season and things we want to do for this upcoming season.

You have a fellow Las Vegas native with Chase Jeter as a teammate…

Yeah it’s been great, I talk to Chase all the time and he was just telling me a few days ago that he is loving it out there and just can’t wait to get it started. We’ll all be up there in the next few days and can’t wait to get everything started.

You mentioned Jayson Tatum earlier who is now committed to Duke - what were your thoughts on his decision and potentially playing with him?

I’m excited.  Jayson is a great player and I would love to play with him in the future. I talk to Jayson quite a bit. He still has another year in high school, so we talk about different ideas, different players we’d like to maybe play with…guys like Harry Giles, and stuff like that.

You, Harry and Jayson were all on a USA Team together, correct?  What was that like?

It was cool, they are all great dudes and I got to see them out here in Vegas here recently with their AAU stuff out here. It was great to see them all again.

You making the decision to reclassify to 2015 was a big decision for you, can you share what went into the process of deciding to do that?

I feel like everything just lined up perfect with everything.  Coach K, the staff, everyone did a great job in reaching out and talking to me. I felt really comfortable with the decision and they just did a great job and my father did a really great job to prepare me by spending hours in the gym. I feel like all those things went into re-classing.

Was the ultimate decision to re-class based more on things that the staff said to you during your recruiting process, or was it more things that you and dad felt and thought about with that decision?

I don’t think it was more one than the other, both parts of it played big roles in the decision overall. 

The in-home visit with the Duke staff…ddid you know you were going to commit to coming in early before it started?

I wouldn’t say it was a certain percentage going into the in-home meeting, I just think it went really well and that helped a lot, but that wasn’t the deciding factor. I felt comfortable with the coaching staff before the meeting, the meeting just helped me a lot to be sure in my decision.

What was the presentation like, if any, from the Duke staff in that meeting?

They just kinda came from a family type approach to it. I felt really comfortable with everybody I was with from the coaching staff. When I took my unofficial visit to Duke I felt real comfortable with everybody there and I just felt really comfortable.

As you were going through the recruiting process with Duke and figuring out how you felt about the staff and the program, what kind of questions were you and your dad asking towards the staff?

I talked to Coach a lot, so if I had any questions I would just bring them up to him. There wasn’t anything too serious that I had to ask them, I felt like they always had great confidence in me and that helped a lot. That went a long way in my decision in re-classing.

How so?

They always said that I’m a great player. They told me that they really liked how I played defense and how I led the team. They always showed a lot of confidence in me and that helped a lot.

In working on your game this summer, did you get any recent measurements for height and weight?

Right now I’m 6’2 and 180 pounds. I’m not sure what my current vertical or wingspan is right now.

From a workout perspective, how much were you working on the offensive side of the court with skill development versus the defensive side of the court this summer?

We did a lot of defense and a lot of offense. I’m making 500 shots a day and I would try a lot of different things. With my defense I was doing a lot of different things with my dad and I watched a lot of film of different guys and broke down some defensive things on film.

Which guys on film did you break down?

I watched a lot of my old film, then I watched a lot of Kyrie, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, guys like that.

What kind of things with the NBA guys on film were you taking away from the film study and trying to apply into your game?

Their feel for the game. We tried to see the type of plays they make, a lot of little things they do. 

A lot of Duke fans are really excited to see what you are going to bring the court, what kind of skills and abilities do you see yourself bringing to both ends of the court this first year?

I feel like I’m a competitor first and foremost. I’m a guy that wants to win at all costs. I’m able to run the team and score when needed while finding my guys and I also take pride in my defense. 

Looking back at your high school career, whether it be with AAU or camps or USA or whichever setting, what do you think was the toughest, most competitive matchup for you?

Probably playing against the professional guys at Impact in Vegas.


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