Duke came up with a solution to its point-guard problem Tuesday.
Derryck Thornton, one of the top ranked players in the class of 2016, committed to Duke, and according to ESPN, plans to reclassify and enter college a year earlier than planned.
That will fill a hole on Duke’s roster for a true point guard next season. Thornton, 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, averaged 17.0 points and 6.2 assists per game last season at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev. Originally from Chatsworth, Calif., Thornton was also pursued by Louisville and Kentucky.
ESPN had Thornton ranked as the No. 11 player in the class of 2016. With his decision on Tuesday, he was moved into the class of 2015 rankings at No. 17 and as the third-best point guard. The addition of Thornton gives Duke three recruits in the top 25.
The Blue Devils will have to replace four starters from this year’s national championship team. Point guard Tyus Jones, along with Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, left after his freshman season.
Duke had already secured recruiting reinforcements in forward Chase Jeter and guard Luke Kennard, a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans. The Blue Devils are also in the running for Kinston guard Brandon Ingram, another McDonald’s All-American, who will announce his college decision Monday.
The Blue Devils were always going to be different next season without Okafor, the ACC player of the year, and Winslow, who was one of the most dominant players in the NCAA tournament. But there are returning parts – and new parts – for the Blue Devils to contend for its first ACC title since 2011.
There was a strong group coming back before the recent additions, just not at point guard. Seniors Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee, along with Rice transfer Sean Obi, give Duke a solid foundation in the frontcourt, with the addition of Jeter, who’s 6-10 and 215 pounds.
Versatile guards Grayson Allen and Matt Jones return with Kennard adding depth. A point guard was the missing piece with Thornton seemingly solving that problem on Tuesday.