And in two games, the payoff is already becoming apparent.
So far, Thornton has been one of few exceptions to a dismal start by Florida State - the team played sloppy in the opener against Texas Southern and lost, 70-67, to Texas A&M Corpus Cristi, a program in its sixth year, Monday night.
But Thornton scored a team-high 15 points and five rebounds versus the Islanders, working the most minutes (25) of any player off the bench.
One game prior, he contributed defensively with a pair of key blocks in the game's final minutes to preserve Florida State's first win, 71-62, over Texas Southern.
Thornton also led the team in scoring with 16 points in the Seminoles' exhibition game against Pan-American University.
"He has shown that he has that mentality because he gives you the same effort all the time and that is his make-up," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. While it's still very early in the season, Thornton leads the team in blocks (3), is third in points (10.5), and average the most minutes of any non-starting player (22). It's all relatively new for him, though.
Last season, Thornton found his way into the rotation on occasion, but was mostly relegated to being a bystander.
From that position he learned.
"One of the biggest thing I learned that at times when they played as a team they got things done," Thornton said.
"When you play as a team you can get a lot more done. Those guys played hard every single possession."
That's exactly what Hamilton has seen out of Thornton, and what he hopes to see out of the rest of his team as the year progresses.
"I'm encouraged about the potential of this team, but I'm concerned that the growing pains we are going through are a little more significant than I would like to think," Hamilton said.
They're also trying to find an identity. Hamilton pointed out, following Texas Southern, that he hadn't found a group of guys that played consistently at the desired level.
Thornton agreed the young team is still looking for chemistry in the absence of Pickett, who was the Seminoles' core in 2003-04.
"I think we're still growing and people are still identifying roles," he said.
Thornton seems to have found his role, which is growing, just like his confidence.