Making the move from California to Nevada, 2016 Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep five-star point guard Derryck Thornton Jr. is in his first season running the show for a very talented high school basketball team.
Featuring the likes of fellow highly recruited players like Rashad Vaughn, Craig Victor, Justin Jackson and Jonah Bolden, among others, Thornton Jr., even as just a sophomore, is standing out on a game to game basis.
“It’s going well,” Derryck’s father Derryck Thornton Sr. said. “First time playing with this many players between McDonald’s All-Americans and this much talent, (you have to) learn how to make everybody happy and still be aggressive at the same time; it’s been working out well for him.
“Some games he leads us in scoring and assists, some games he’s fifth in scoring but leads in assists. As long as he leads us in assists that’s his number one goal and number one job here; playing great defense and making everybody else’s job easier.”
Just shy of 6-foot-2 with long arms and an excellent motor on both ends of the floor, Thornton Jr., the No. 1 rated point guard in the 2016 class, continues to put in work, looking to transform his game and body as the next level edges ever closer.
“He’s just getting more explosive and his jump shot is way more consistent,” Thornton Sr. said. “We lift weights together in the evenings. He’s just putting on muscle and becoming a more explosive basketball player.
“I believe, probably by September or October of next year, physically, he’s going to be in a different place.”
Hearing consistently from Florida, USC, Arizona, Louisville, UNLV, New Mexico, Missouri, and Vanderbilt, Michigan remains a school and basketball program firmly entrenched in the eyes and minds of the Thornton’s during the recruiting process.
Wolverines’ assistant Jeff Meyer coached Thornton Sr. in the early 90’s when he was the head coach at Liberty University, continuing to build on an already strong bond today.
Now at Michigan, Meyer and Thornton Sr. continue to play with the possibility of Thornton Jr. running the show for John Beilein and the Wolverines in 2016.
According to Thornton Sr., it’s easy to look at the track record Michigan has with guard development, including 2013 first round NBA draft picks Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., and think seriously about his son doing the same.
“Listen, at the end of the day, I love what LaVall (Jordan) does with guards,” he said. “Their guard system and the way they develop their guards, I mean, you look at (Nik) Stauskas and (Caris) LeVert, and even Walton, how much they’ve come along this season is crazy -- it’s scary to me how much they’ve improved and at the rate they’ve improved.
“Watch how they handle pick and rolls and how they split pick and rolls and the reads on the pick and rolls. I know that just comes from great coaching so Beilein and those guys there.
“They do a magnificent job of getting their guards ready and to me, my son is a point guard so, out of all those schools you’ve got to start looking and say well which school does the most with their point guard play? What school does the most with developing a point guard? And that’s, more than likely, where Derryck’s going to end up.”
With guard development in mind and looming large in Thornton Jr.’s recruitment, a visit to Ann Arbor has been scheduled and coming along with them will be the No. 1 shooting guard in the 2016 class in Gill (N.J.) St. Bernard’s five-star Tyus Battle.
“We’re coming out to Ann Arbor in early June for their one day camp,” Thornton Sr. said. “And then we’ll visit the campus.”
Thornton Jr. has previously visited Arizona and UNLV with visits to both USC and Florida also planned for this spring.
Under Beilein, Michigan has mandated recruits seriously considering the Wolverines must visit campus before an official scholarship offer can be extended and that that offer will be given out no sooner than June 15 following the prospects sophomore year of high school.
According to Thornton Sr., that doesn’t mean they don’t have an inkling as to how highly Michigan thinks of his son.
“I’ve spoken to the guys about it and we’ll be out there in June,” Thornton Sr. said. “Beilein and those guys basically told me on June 15 there’s an offer waiting for him so we’re just waiting for that date.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to get a scholarship offer from Michigan.”
Still very early in the process, the Thornton’s don’t have a timeline for any decision or verbal commitment to be made, simply knowing that when it feels right, they’ll make the call.
“I got to be honest, we haven’t really talked about it but I’m not the type of guy and neither is my son, who is going to wait until the last second,” Thornton Sr. said. “If he feels good, he’s just going to say ‘let’s do this’ and I’m going to support him.”