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.