A Blue Devil will be heading home for the NCAA Tournament Regionals for the second straight year.
Last season, Duke freshman forward Justise Winslow got the chance to return home to Houston for NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament regional and dominated in Texas as the team went on to win the 2015 national title. This year, freshman point guard Derryck Thornton will have the same opportunity as the Blue Devils head to Anaheim near where he grew up. Can Thornton replicate the success that Winslow had in his hometown last year to help Duke advance to the Final Four?
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Derryck Thornton grew up in southern California is originally from Chatsworth, CA right outside of Los Angeles. Without traffic, Chatsworth is about an hour and a half from Anaheim where Duke will be playing in the Honda Center. The 6-2 point guard, who hopes the team makes a trip to Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles, starred in CA before transferring to Findlay Prep in Nevada for his sophomore year of high school where he then reclassified to graduate early and join the Blue Devils this season.
Thornton has had and up-and-down season for the Blue Devils, starting for most of the season and playing very well in the beginning of the year but then hitting a slump and being relegated to the bench at the start of the postseason. The loss of Amile Jefferson and the offensive focus on Allen and Ingram have hurt guards Thornton, Luke Kennard, and Matt Jones.
We picked the freshman point guard as our X-factor for Duke in the NCAA Tournament this year, and while he hasn’t put up great numbers he had two solid games in the early rounds totaling 7 points and 7 assists to only 2 turnovers against UNCW and Yale. Thornton will most likely need to make a bigger impact and will be relied on more heavily in Duke’s next match-up against a deep and athletic Oregon team.
Justise Winslow had a similar slump in his freshman year with the Blue Devils where he struggled for a long stretch of games during the ACC regular season last year. He began putting it back together towards the end of the regular season before he exploded in Houston to average in 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 and earn All-South Region team honors.
Thornton has played his best basketball in the bigger games this season, and we’re hoping he can have a similar impact in Anaheim like Winslow did in Houston to help Duke advance to their second straight Final Four.