Heading into what will be a very hectic summer from a recruiting standpoint, 2016 Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep five-star point guard Derryck Thornton Jr. is eating, sleeping, and working out for hours daily on the basketball floor.
Not just hitching his wagon to the AAU train this spring and summer, Thornton Jr. is challenging himself and showcasing his skill set against pro players and future NBA draft picks as well.
“Everything’s been going great,” Thornton’s father Derryck Thornton Sr. said. “He decided to play on a team a little closer to home and I work at IMPACT so I’ll be working with a lot of pros and college guys this summer and he wanted to be a part of that.
“He decided to play for a team close to home and we can do a little bit of both. We can do the AAU thing but do a lot of the other stuff we do with the older guys.”
Coming off a strong sophomore season, his first running the show as the point guard for a loaded Findlay Prep squad, Thornton Jr. prospered, dishing out more assists than anyone in school history.
“I think he averaged 13 and eight, started as a sophomore and he broke the assist record,” Thornton Sr. said. “I always want more, you know me I’m the kind of parent that puts in the work with his son so I know how good he can play and all the things he can do so I’m always trying to get involved and do those things.
With the evaluation period now in full swing, college coaches are scouring the country looking for and checking in on top talent.
Thornton Jr. is already a high priority for several, rated as the No. 1 point guard in his class, and John Beilein and the Michigan Wolverines made sure to drop by.
“Of course Michigan came out on Monday, the first school out to see him which I thought was awesome,” Thornton Sr. said. “Arizona came to see him, UNLV came to see him, Cal, Kansas and then this weekend I’ll be expecting those schools and then I know USC is coming out, Vanderbilt will be out, Missouri and Florida.”
Michigan has been courting Thornton Jr. for well over a year now, offering a program on and off the floor that’s very attractive to Thornton Sr.
Looking at the Wolverines strictly from a basketball perspective, the Thornton’s see the growth and development they want at the next level.
“Listen, at the end of the day this is what you’ve got to think about if you’re really serious about looking at Michigan,” Thornton Sr. said. “I mean, it’s a beautiful campus of course, the academics are amazing, but on the basketball side you figure, this is what me and Derryck look at; the offense is amazing, it’s amazing. It’s spread out, people can run the floor, you can create for everyone; it’s a dream offense for a point guard.
“But the way they develop players, I mean I remember (Caris) LeVert last year, not that he wasn’t awesome but I’m pretty sure he was a two or three star kid coming out of high school. He’s a pro now. Nik Stauskas, same thing, he’s a pro. So, I joke with the coaches all the time like what are you guys feeding these kids? What are you guys giving your kids to eat? The development job they do is crazy, the development job they do is just insane.
“You compound that with the fact that it’s a bunch of good guys over there, the coaches are good guys, Christian men, they have morals and values, it’s a great school.
“As far as the tournament goes they lost to Kentucky and that was just an amazing game, I’ve watched it several times already and it could’ve gone either way. It was a last second shot but it is what it is and I’ll tell you it was an amazing game. And think about this, Michigan did everything they did without Mitch McGary, and that’s amazing so I’m proud of them and happy for the coaches.”
Now just a little over a month from visiting Ann Arbor for the first time, set to be at Michigan’s one-day college practice camp on June 7, Thornton Sr. knows exactly what he wants his son to see from the Wolverines.
Also making a visit that weekend will be the Thornton’s good friends Gary and Tyus Battle, Tyus being the No. 1 overall shooting guard in the 2016 class and a five-star prospect in his own right.
“I really want my son to really just get in the gym with the coaches and learn from them,” Thornton Sr. said. “We’re going to be there for three or four days so just kind of take in the community, everything about Ann Arbor, poke our head in the football area and see what it looks like, meet with the weight training people cause Derryck is still skinny.
“Just those things and then I’m really looking forward to seeing what LaVall and Coach Meyer do with the guards everyday and see some of the stuff they’re doing with development.
“I know Gary Battle, Tyus’ father, he’s looking for a lot of the same things, just looking to take in the area and see if this is where we want those guys to go and show them this is a college city and all those things. We’re excited about coming, really excited about coming to camp.”
Expected to receive a scholarship offer from Michigan on June 15, the first day direct contact can be made between coaches and parents or players that have just wrapped up their sophomore years of high school, Thornton Sr. says anything could happen.
Is an on the spot commitment to Michigan the plan? No, but at the same time Thornton Sr. wants his son to commit to a school when he feels ready, no matter when that might be.
“The truth of the matter is this, we’re not trying to wait until the end of his senior year or the beginning of his junior year, it’s really when he feels like this is home, I’m going to support it,” Thornton Sr. said. “I’m not even going to let him visit schools I don’t want him to go to cause I would hate to have him visit a school when I’m saying no no no and he all of the sudden wants to go there. If I visit the school that means at the time I’m cool if he decides to go there.
“So, if we’re there and on our way home and he’s like dad that was it, that’s what I want to do and he feels great about it, I’ll give him a day or two to think about it and he comes to me and feels the same way, he can commit and I’ll back him.”