Derryck Thornton is transferring out of the Duke program, sources told NBCSports.com.
Thornton averaged 7.1 points and 2.6 assists while starting 20 games for the Blue Devils this past season. A former top 25 recruit, Thornton graduated high school early in order to enroll at Duke last season. He was initially a member of the Class of 2016, but when Tyus Jones jumped to the NBA after one season, the Blue Devils were left without a point guard on the roster.
“I have loved my time at Duke, but I want to pursue the opportunity to play college basketball closer to home,” Thornton said. “I want to thank my teammates and coaches for their support this year. The relationships I have with them will always be special to me.”
Thornton’s impending transfer has been rumored for some time now, as Duke went out and recruited another point guard — Frank Jackson, a top ten recruit in the Class of 2016 — over him. With Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard returning and Jayson Tatum joining the program as well, Duke’s perimeter suddenly looked quite crowded.
So on paper, losing Thornton doesn’t appear to hurt Duke all that much. In fact, it may actually be beneficial, as it opens up a scholarship for Marques Bolden.
But this may hurt Duke more than people realize, as Jackson is still stuck in the midst of a transition from pure scoring guard to point guard. If Thornton had returned, Duke could have used a lot of three-guard and small-ball looks, playing Allen at the three and Tatum at the four with a back court of Thornton and Jackson. As it stands, Duke’s top four perimeter players all need the ball in their hands to be effective. In other words, Jackson, Allen, Kennard and Tatum are all scorers first.
Given how talented they are, that’s a good problem for Coach K and his staff to have. But the point is that there was a role for Thornton to play next season, and that losing him does hurt.