Derryck Thornton

Reebok Breakout Classic Day 1 Recap: Derryck Thornton outshines Diamond Stone, Skal Labissiere

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PHILADELPHIA — The matchup that headlined the first day of Reebok’s Breakout Classic was Diamond Stone squaring off with Skal Labissiere, a matchup between two top 15 big men in the Class of 2015.

But by the time the final buzzer sounded, the name that was being talked about was a diminutive point guard by the name of Derryck Thornton.

Thornton, the No. 11 recruit in the Class of 2016 according to Rivals, finished with 10 points, seven assists and five boards while leading his team to a two-point win. He controlled possession of the ball, knocked down a couple of mid-range jumpers off the dribble and was able to get into the lane and draw defenders while finding teammates Markis McDuffie and Tyus Battle open on the perimeter.

It was somewhat reminiscent of the way a certain point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers plays, and that’s not an accident.

“I watch a lot of film on point guards like Chris Paul and they get a lot of their points off of little pull-ups in the paint,” Thornton told NBCSports.com.

Now, it’s unfair to try and make a comparison between Thornton and Paul at this point in his development, but the five-star recruit plays with the same kind of ball-dominant style. His handle is elite and he’s clearly paid attention to the coaching he’s received on ball-screen actions. This wasn’t his first impressive performance of the summer, as he was the MVP of the Stephen Curry Camp in San Francisco last weekend, a camp that put a priority on skillwork over simple 5-on-5 play.

“We did a lot of drills,” Thornton said of the camp. “Pick-and-rolls, catch-and-shoot, off-the-dribble moves. A lot of skill work.”

That performance at a high-profile camp helped ramp up the recruitment of a player already getting plenty of attention from national programs. Kentucky, UConn, Michigan, Arizona and Florida are among the programs that have lined up to recruit the Findlay Prep point guard. To his credit, Thornton has tried his best to keep away from getting swept up in the hype.

“I’m trying not to, I’m really just trying to focus on my game,” Thornton said. “I wasn’t into it when I wasn’t as known and I’m not into it now.”

If he continues to perform this way, however, that hype is only going to continue to grow.

Diamond Stone’s macaroni mishap: The highlight of this trip to the Breakout Classic was a chance to see Diamond Stone, the No. 6 recruit in the Class of 2015, perform, but he only saw a limited amount of action on Wednesday night as he darted back and forth from the bench to the locker room. The problem? He ate too much macaroni and cheese before the game, according to his father.

“We’ve make macaroni with real cheese up in Wisconsin,” Stone’s father said with a laugh.

Stone’s ability was evident early on, however, as he scored over Skal Labissiere twice in the first three possessions on post moves and followed that up with a thunderous tip-dunk in transition. That’s all I needed to see to know that Stone’s ranking was legitimate, but hopefully tomorrow he’ll be able log more minutes.

Jawun Evans is the second best point guard in the Class of 2015: I’m more and more impressed with Evans every time I see him play, and while I don’t think his No. 32 ranking in the Class of 2015, per Rivals, is necessarily low, it is a good indicator of just how few point guards there are in this class.

Evans is super-quick with the ball in his hands but he’s not all that explosive vertically. He’s got a rock solid handle and I’ve yet to see him make the wrong decision with the ball in his hands, but his lack of a consistent perimeter stroke will make it difficult for him to beat defenders off the dribble at the next level. That should come with time, however, and the Kimball HS (TX) will make whichever of his final eight schools he picks very happy.

As one high-major assistant told me, “the kid’s an absolute stud.”

Dwayne Bacon’s ascent continues: Dwayne Bacon continues to establish himself as one of the elite wings in the Class of 2015 as he took over in the first half on the first day of camp. Bacon finished with 16 points, the majority of those coming in the first half, as he hit threes, beat people off the dribble and scored in transition. He’s had a big spring, and based on Wednesday’s performance, it doesn’t seem like he is going to be slowing down this summer.

White decides to return to Nebraska

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Nebraska’s second-leading scorer from last season will return for his senior season as Andrew White III announced Wednesday he will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft.

“I felt good about the pre-draft process, White said in a statement released by Nebraska. “It was encouraging, and I gained as much ground as anyone throughout the process. I wanted one more year to fine tune my game and put myself in better position for the NBA next summer.  

“I want to thank the teams who invited me their in-house workouts, and Nebraska for supporting me during this process.  It has been very helpful in gathering information in preparation for my future Thank you to everyone who has been following my progress throughout the spring and being understanding and supportive, as I evaluated whether to turn pro or return for my senior year.”

White, a Kansas transfer, tallied 16.6 points per game last season while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. He also pulled down 5.9 rebounds per game.

“We are excited to have Andrew remain with our program,” coach Tim Miles said. “This has been a valuable time for him, as he has tested his skills against some of the best competition and received very important insight from key NBA personnel.  

“We look forward to continuing to help Andrew’s development to improve his NBA profile even more than he already has done through this process.  I believe next year could be our most complete team with a great opportunity for success in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament, I’m happy Andrew will be with us to go out and prove it.”

The news is certainly welcome for the Cornhuskers and Miles, who will be under pressure to show improvement after back-to-back disappointing seasons following an NCAA tournament appearance in 2014. Shavon Shields, last year’s leading scorer, has exhausted his eligibility and the Huskers will need White to help fill the void.

Trimble coming back to Terps

Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)
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Melo Trimble is returning to Maryland.

The Terrapin guard will be back to for his junior season in College Park, according to multiple reports.

Trimble went from freshman first-rounder to question mark after a rough end to his sophomore season for Maryland in which his points per game, shooting percentage (both overall and from 3-point range) and rebounding dipped from his first season. Only his assists per game showed any sort of improvement. He waited until the last possible day to announce his intentions to return to school, but really his options were limited after seeing his production drop.

His decision to come back to school gives him a shot to restore his draft stock while Maryland gets its floor general back to help ease the transition from last year’s Sweet 16 squad that lost Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman. The Terps might not be a sure-fire top-25 team with Trimble back, but their NCAA tournament chances are now significantly higher.

Nevada lands Martin twins

Caleb Martin, Jordan Roper
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Eric Musselman keeps adding reinforcements to his roster. For the 2017-18 season.

Musselman and Nevada received commitments from N.C. State transfers and twin brothers Caleb and Cody Martin, according to multiple reports.

That brings Nevada’s sit-out transfer count for this upcoming season to four with Hallice Cooke (Iowa State) and Kendall Stephens (Purdue) already in the fold. Under NCAA transfer rules, the quartet will have to sit out the upcoming season before being eligible in 2017-18.

Caleb averaged 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 36 percent from deep while Cody put up 6.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists, shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc.

The timing of having four sit-out transfers works well for the Wolf Pack given that two of the team’s three leading scorers from last year, D.J. Fenner (a senior) and Cameron Oliver (a sophomore), return while senior transfers Marcus Marshall (Missouri State) becomes eligible. Having those four experienced transfers begin playing in 2017-18 while all but two players from this upcoming team slated to return makes Nevada an interesting team, a year from now.

Louisville big man heading to NBA Draft

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After a day of mixed messages, Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku finally made it official.

He’s staying in the NBA Draft.

“After talking to my family and going through the NBA process,” Onuaku wrote in an Instagram post, “me and my family have decided that it would be best for me to keep my name in the draft.”

The day started out with Cardinals coach Rick Pitino telling multiple media outlets that the 6-foot-10 sophomore would remain in the draft after he declared last month without an agent and attended the draft combine. Onuaku, though, appeared to at least mildly refute that with an Instagram post that said his decision wouldn’t come until later Wednesday evening. Which it did, confirming Pitino’s words.

The confusion may have been frustrating for observers, but Onuaku’s social media presence no doubt has benefited from the bizarre day.

Onuaku averaged 9.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.6 assists in 24.6 minutes per game last season, making his per-40 numbers, a metric NBA teams like to take into consideration, nothing short of fantastic. He also shot a not-so-shabby 62.0 percent from the floor. His size, athleticism and ability to score around the basket (he’s taken one 3-pointer in two seasons) make him a potential first-round selection in next month’s draft.

The 19-year-old Onuaku underwent a procedure on his heart last week due to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. It has been described as a minor procedure that will not affect his ability to play long-term or work out with teams leading up to the draft.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, should be able to absorb Onuaku’s loss seemlessly as they return the bulk of last year’s team that went 23-8 and was ranked 10th in KenPom, but was banned from the postseason as a result of the Katina Powell bombshell. Newcomers Tony Hicks (Penn transfer) and V.J. King (consensus top-30 recruit) will also make for solid additions.

Swanigan staying for sophomore season

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12), Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (50) and Purdue's A.J. Hammons (20) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Purdue won 89-58. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.

Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.

The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”

Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.

“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”

Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.