As we learned Monday, former Duke guard Derryck Thornton will be a grad student transfer and finish up at Boston College.
As it was when he left Duke though, not much is his fault.
Check out what his dad told the Boston Globe:
“I think that Derryck had never been told no. In high school, being ranked so high, coming out of high school so early to be the starting point guard at Duke. Then you get to college, it’s, ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ And I don’t think he was ready for that mentally as a kid. ‘Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t do this. Go stand over there. I think that kind of stymied his growth. What we’re looking for in this last journey, this last part is positivity and a positive staff for one of the first times. They want to see you do well. Get back to saying yes and playing your game, the game you had your whole life and of course developing that further...You want to really know the people you’re going to be dealing with in your last hurrah. If you’re going to go out, you want to go out playing your way. You want to go out playing how you played your whole life, and if that’s not good enough, that’s not good enough. But you want to be who you are and not put in a little box of who they want you to be.”
Let’s start with the first part of that. No one ever told him no? Seriously? Even at Findlay Prep?
If that’s true then he never got coached because while coaching should be positive in general it’s also about making you better and breaking bad habits.
Thornton left Duke because at least his family felt he was a shooting point guard. But he never was and he still isn't. He had chances at Duke and USC and both schools found that he was a better pass-first point guard than he was a shooting point guard. We’ve seen Kyrie. He’s no Kyrie.
He’s also no Ky Bowman, the guy he’ll be replacing. Bowman is a stunning athlete. Thornton is a good athlete but hardly a great one, as demonstrated by his playing time at both Duke and USC, not to mention his stats.
At the end of his comments to the Globe, Thornton Sr. says “[y]ou want to go out playing how you played your whole life, and if that’s not good enough, that’s not good enough. But you want to be who you are and not put in a little box of who they want you to be.”
Here’s the thing though: two coaching staffs, including one just stuffed with former point guards, saw him as a guard with limitations. Saying “your whole life” is like when Shaquille O’ Neal said he had won championships “at every level except college and the NBA.” Well so what? Who cares what happened in high school?
Thornton looks more and more like a guy who is a victim of little league parents, or at least a little league dad, who thinks he’s more than he is. What he is is a reasonable point guard. There is nothing in his career to suggest he’s an NBA player. If he had been patient at Duke, if he could have handled being told no, he might have become a pretty good point guard.
Look at his Duke teammates. Six of them have at least played in the NBA: Amile Jefferson, Brandon Ingram, Marshall Plumlee, Grayson Allen and Luke Dennard.
The guy who is most analogous to Thornton was Matt Jones.
He was recruited to Duke as a shooter and found out he couldn’t shoot well against college athletes. So he adapted and became a lights-out defender. At one point in his college career Coach K said he had never had a bad practice. Not one.
He didn't complain about being told no; he found a way to be realistic about his limitations and to be great within them.
Thornton has still not listened when people told him he had limitations. He has still not been realistic about his abilities.
Maybe everyone was wrong and he’s an All-American at BC. Maybe all those coaches will say how did we miss that? Does that seem likely?
It doesn’t to us. What does seem likely is that he’s what everyone has told him he is: a reasonable pass-first point guard who should focus on that and defense.
He has one last chance to “get out of that little box but we’re not holding our breath. He’s not what he’s been told he is.