Playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium can give opposing players flashes of anxiety. Rarely, though, does it offer a dose of nostalgia, as it must have for Boston College point guard Derryck Thornton.
If that name sounds familiar, it's because Thornton started 20 games for Duke during the 2015-16 season. He transferred after his freshman season at Duke, seeking greener grass at USC. After two seasons there, Thornton transferred again to Boston College, where he's averaged 13.3 points and 3.4 assists for an 8-5 Eagles squad.
His return to Cameron ended with the same result as the last time he played there in March 2016—in a loss. Like the rest of the Eagles, Thornton could not get into a rhythm. He scored the first bucket of the game, driving by Tre Jones and the rest of the Duke defense for an easy layup, but he only managed two more field goals in the rest of the contest.
In a first half play emblematic of the game at large, Thornton drove to the basket only to have the ball ripped out of his hands by Jordan Goldwire. On Boston College's subsequent two offensive possessions, he took and missed two shots, the latter of which ultimately led to Vernon Carey Jr. free throws.
Eagles head coach Jim Christian seemed to dismiss the idea that playing back in Cameron had a negative impact on Thornton's performance.
“Nobody on our team played very well," Christian said after the game. "It’s not about Derryck Thornton or anybody else. His mindset was he was ready to come back, and like everybody else he’s just trying to get better. Nobody on our team played well, so we just have to grow from it."
Thornton arrived at Duke in the same recruiting class as future NBA lottery picks Brandon Ingram, Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter, another future transfer. He averaged 7.1 points and 2.6 assists that season, with standout performances against VCU, Long Beach State and Georgia Tech.
Justin Robinson redshirted the 2015-16 season, meaning he is the only player on the current Duke roster that played with Thornton.
“It’s always good to see him, that’s always fun," Robinson said about his former teammate. "He’s a good friend of mine, so I see him every now and then, but this is the first time we’ve played each other. It was good to see him, we talked before the game and had a nice little conversation. I’m glad we got the win, got some bragging rights on him.”
Tre Jones can also claim bragging rights against the one-time Duke point guard. In his return from a mild foot sprain, Jones had to work off some rust in the first half, but gradually got his sea legs back en route to a 10-assist performance. Jones looked more confident piloting his team's offense than Thornton. Locked up by Jones and Goldwire, Thornton shot 25 percent from the field and had one assist to two turnovers.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski had nothing but kind words to say about Thornton.
“I love Derryck," Krzyzewski said. "Derryck is a great kid and he represented us well while he was here. He started 20 games for us, did his academic responsibilities, then he went to a heck of a school, [Southern California], and now he’s at another really good school. He’s an outstanding player. I would have rather had him stay in our program, but I don’t hold anything against him."
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