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Duke basketball 2013-14 player preview: Tyler Thornton

Leading up to Duke basketball’s first game of the season Nov. 8 against Davidson, The Blue Zone will preview all the expected contributors on this 2013-2014 squad, beginning with the freshmen Monday and ending with the seniors and grad students Friday.

Tyler Thornton

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  • Year: Senior
  • Height: 6-foot-2
  • Position: Guard
  • Last year's key statistics: 3.6 PPG, 2.3 APG, 2.2 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 39.2 3P%

Game Breakdown: Last season Thornton remained a constant presence on the court for Duke, yet failed to shine backing up Quinn Cook the entire season. He was an important role player for the Blue Devils as a tenacious defender and distributor who could hit shots from 3-point range when presented with the opportunity. This season will be different for Thornton as he will have to manage both how he plays on the court while competing with four other guards for time, and his role as a senior and team captain.

No one doubts his toughness or his leadership on and off the court. What has, and continues to be, Thornton’s biggest fault is his consistency. There are games when he comes out and plays like a veteran college athlete hitting 3-pointers and finding his teammates for easy shot opportunities under pressure. Then there are times when Thornton looks lost. During Countdown to Craziness, Thornton looked rattled at times by the defensive pressure of Cook, and while he certainly has skills, coming through when under pressure is not Thornton’s strong suit. He can be a shut-down defender who is able to put pressure on the ball and cause turnovers with his hustle. Thornton has shown a knack for sparking the Blue Devils at crucial times throughout his career as he is not afraid to dive after a loose ball, take the big shot, or defend the opposing team’s lead guard. His leadership skills above all else are his greatest attributes.

Role on the team: Thornton will be a defensive specialist and backup point guard for Duke this season. With Cook all but certain to start and Rasheed Sulaimon, Andre Dawkins and Matt Jones all already vying for the the final starting guard spot, the odds do not seem to be in Thornton’s favor for a starting nod. He is the captain of this team with redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood, yet his role on the court may be more in the background. His leadership, though, will be invaluable for this team because he has been through the rigors of a college season three years now with the Blue Devils. Thornton is hungry to lead Duke to a national championship and even though he will not dominate playing time on the court, he will certainly impact this team through other means. He is one of the few guys on the roster who can defend his position, knock down a 3-pointer and keep his teammates motivated.

NBA comparison:
Thornton could be most compared to current New York Knicks backup point guard Pablo Prigioni. Prigioni backs up the more explosive Raymond Felton much like Thornton with Cook, and leads the second unit for the Knicks. Prigioni is only in his second year in the NBA, but he had an extensive career abroad before making his NBA debut. His experience shined in his first season in terms of on court awareness and ability to make passes to all points on the floor. That kind of experience and leadership is what Thornton brings to this Duke team.

Projected statline: 4.3 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG

Check back later today for a preview of Andre Dawkins.

Players we've already previewed: Jabari Parker, Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye, Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, Alex Murphy, Quinn Cook, Josh Hairston

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