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 NBCSports.com. 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.
ESPN.com 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.