Derryck Thornton

Kelly Kline, Under Armor

Mixtape for Duke’s next point guard, Derryck Thornton (VIDEO)

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Earlier this month, Derryck Thornton reclassified into 2015 and committed to play for Duke, meaning that the 6-foot point guard will be the replacement for Tyus Jones as the primary ball-handler for the Blue Devils.

Thornton is a five-star prospect, and you can see just how promising he is as a player in this highlight tape. But you can also get a bit of a feel for why some of his struggles are struggles. He’s turnover prone, he makes risky plays that will either make Sportscenter when they work or get him sent to the bench, and he can be too ball-dominant and a bit of a gunner.

He is talented, however, and Coach K has done some good things with point guards in the past. He won a title with Jon Scheyer running the point and turned Nolan Smith into a first-team all-american point guard:

Duke lands commitment from elite PG Derryck Thornton, who will reclass

Kelly Kline, Under Armor
Kelly Kline, Under Armor

And now Duke has their point guard for next season.

Derryck Thornton has reclassified and committed to play for the Blue Devils next season, multiple sources confirmed to Thornton is currently ranked as the No. 9 player in the class of 2016 by Rivals, but he will be graduating from Findlay Prep a year early and enrolling at Duke in time for the 2015-16 season. was the first to report the news.

This is a commitment that head coach Mike Krzyzewski badly needed. It wasn’t much of a surprise when Jahlil Okafor left school after one season, and given the way that Justise Winslow played early in the 2014-15 season, it was more or less assumed that the wing would be on his way to the NBA this spring. The Blue Devils were prepared for Okafor’s departure, and they had enough wings on the roster or committed to the program in the Class of 2015 to survive Winslow leaving.

But when point guard Tyus Jones, who earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player in Duke’s run to the national title, declared for the draft after a terrific tournament run, it put Duke in a tough spot. They didn’t have a point guard on their roster, which is why they targeted Thornton.

Thornton is a high IQ floor general who makes a lot of plays for others while also being a decent jump shooter. Defensively, he’s also very competitive and should be ready to go on that end of the floor. Thornton was a likely All-American in the Class of 2016, but he’s probably ready to contribute at this level of college basketball right now.

The question is whether or not a kid that just finished his junior year of high school — he was originally a member of the Class of 2015, meaning he’ll be the same age as other freshmen next season — can handle being a full-time point guard for a team that will be competing for ACC titles and Final Four appearances. Thornton is a ball-hawk defensively, but he’s no where near as refined as Jones offensively. He turns the ball over too much, he has a tendency to be a bit of a gunner and he’s still learning the nuances of the position. Playing for Coach K will help — remember, he won a national title with Jon Scheyer playing as his point guard — but it’s still going to be a major adjustment for Thornton.

He’s the missing piece for the Blue Devils, one that will likely vault them into the top seven when we update our preseason top 25. Without Thornton, we had Duke at No. 13.

Duke commit Luke Kennard responds to Tyus Jones’ departure

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NEW YORK – On Wednesday morning, Tyus Jones, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, followed in the footsteps of teammates Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, becoming the third Duke freshman to enter his name into this year’s NBA draft.

In light of the news of Jones’ decision, lone Jordan Brand Classic Duke commit Luke Kennard, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Franklin, Ohio, was repeatedly asked to address the state of the post-champion Blue Devils, whose key components have been stripped down and shipped to the NBA.

Kennard, who made waves earlier this season by passing LeBron James on Ohio’s all-time scoring list, acknowledged that, prior to the season, he assumed Okafor would likely be NBA-bound regardless of the season’s result. He also stated Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski explained, when it came to Jones and Winslow’s respective futures, the determining factor would be their late-season performances.

Even with the idea of all three breakout freshman jumping to the NBA implanted in the back of his mind, Kennard made it clear it was still a pill he had to choke down.

“It kind of stinks that they’re leaving, they’re great players,” Kennard said. “I played with Justise and Tyus on the USA Team, U-18, this past summer. It’s going to be tough but we’re ready to come in and just play good and prove [ourselves].”

The departure of Jones leaves the Blue Devils without a point guard to their name, just a season after playing with two — Jones and senior Quinn Cook — in their starting lineup. With the tarp officially being torn off the gaping hole, Krzyzewski is trying to convince either, or both, of 2016 targets Derryck Thornton and Jamal Murray, to reclassify and join Duke a year early.

However, if those plans end up fizzling, Kennard may be the Blue Devils’ fall-back to run the offense next season. Kennard, who played some point in AAU, as well as high school, told that assistant coach Jon Scheyer reached out to him and told him to, “keep working on that ball-handling,” because they may need it sooner rather than later.

If anyone knows about converted point guards, it’s Scheyer. After playing off the ball his first three years at Duke, Scheyer moved to the point in the midst of his senior season and led the Blue Devils to their fourth national title.

Kennard also admitted that, even though his sales pitch may not be as polished as Kryzyewski’s, he’s been doing some recruiting of his own. And while his efforts to lure Caleb Swanigan to Durham proved futile, Kennard said him and fellow Duke commit — as well as future roommate — Chase Jeter have been “going hard” at Brandon Ingram about joining them next season.

Ingram, ranked by Rivals as the No. 19 overall player in the 2015 class, would be a tremendous signing for Duke, but, as a small forward, he would not be the answer to their point guard woes.

While the final recruiting picture remains blurry, one thing is for sure: whether it’s from the two, off the bench, or as the starting point guard, Duke will need some major contributions from Kennard, along with the rest of their incoming class.