It’s a small world. And sometimes, it can feel even smaller.
“It was funny because coach (Meyer) came out to practice and I talked to him a little bit and he was selling me on Michigan and how they preach integrity and all these things,” Derryck’s father, Derryck Thornton Sr., told GoBlueWolverine. “And I looked at him and laughed like, ‘coach, I played for you.’
“Like, come on coach. I know who you are. I had dinner in your basement. I know who you are. You’re one of the better men I’ve ever met.”
Thornton Sr. played guard for coach Meyer while he was the head coach at Liberty University in the early 1990’s. And Thornton Sr. hadn’t forgotten the impact coach Meyer had on him even if it is 20 years later.
“Just a really high integrity person,” said Thornton Sr. “Jeff Meyer is just a stand-up -- they don’t make many men like him.”
Now, coach Meyer stood in the gym, hoping to start a recruiting process with Thornton Sr.’s son, one of the top point guards in the United States -- Thornton Jr. is one of just three point guards, and among 23 players total, selected to participate in the USA Basketball Under 16 team in June -- and dad still can’t believe it.
“I’m getting old,” said Thornton Sr. laughing. “That’s how you know you’re getting old when your old head coach is recruiting your son. It was more funny than anything else. It’s a hell of an opportunity for Derryck.”
The relationship between Michigan, and more specifically the contact between coach Meyer and Thornton Jr. is still very limited due to NCAA rules, but neither side is in too much of a hurry. After all, Thornton Jr. is just finishing is freshman year of high school.
“Derryck is still so young, and I have a great relationship with coach Meyer, and he’s starting to get to talk to him a little bit now but coach Meyer -- he’s a stand up guy and he’s straight up and down and never wants to break any rule or do anything wrong,” said Thornton Sr.
“As much as he wants to do the process, he wants to make sure he’s doing it the right way, and I admire that about him.”
The good news for Michigan, at least throughout the month of March and into early April, is that the coaching staff didn’t have to really recruit during their magical NCAA tournament run -- their play, the dramatic finishes, and all of the nationally televised love, kind of did it for them.
Especially as it pertained to National Player of the Year, Trey Burke, and young, talented point guards that could see themselves running the offense for the Wolverines.
“When I first talked to coach Meyer, he said to me, ‘we do a lot of cool stuff with our point guard,’” said Thornton Sr. “Everybody says that, but then when you start watching some of the sets they run -- they do run really cool stuff with their point guards. And it’s made for the point guard to be successful, to run the team, to get guys open. They put a lot of pressure on the point guard so they’ve got to recruit excellent point guards.
“Any guard they bring in, they’re going to want to model the Trey Burke mold as far as competitiveness, toughness, and Derryck and Trey play differently. Derryck is a pass first point guard looking to score and I think Trey was a little bit more of a scorer that learned to pass the ball a little bit better.”
Thornton Jr. agrees.
“I really like how they put the ball in the point guards hands and basically have him run the show,” said Thornton Jr. “I feel like I could do that as well as Trey did this year. I like that a lot, how they put their team around the point guard.”
Unafraid to challenge his 6-1, 150-pound son, Thornton Jr., at 15-years-old, played two years up over the weekend at the Adidas VIP Exclusive Run AAU tournament. Despite some nerves early on in the first game, Thornton Jr. continued to become more comfortable as the weekend went on, finishing with 11 points and 10 assists in the championship game, a title win for Dream Vision.
“I have a lot of really talented teammates so they helped me out a lot as the weekend went on,” said Thornton Jr. “I feel like the weekend was very successful.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger this season, doing a lot of weights, and that’s probably where my game has improved the most.”
Still very early in his recruiting journey, Thornton Jr. is hearing from several big programs early, and even holds nine scholarship offers so far.
As for Thornton Jr.’s early familiarity with what the Wolverines and their coaching staff have to offer, he’s hoping the interest continues.
“I just know that they’re good guys and I like them a lot,” said Thornton Jr. “Hopefully I can get closer to them.”
After spending one season at Sierra (Calif.) Canyon high school, Thornton Jr. will enroll at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep school, heading into his sophomore year.