Thorn­ton is Tigers’ lat­est juco com­mit

Pro­gram lands third player in nine days

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports - RAYNERE THORN­TON MARK GIANNOTTO

The Mem­phis men’s bas­ket­ball team con­tin­ued to for­tify next year’s ros­ter through the ju­nior col­lege ranks this week­end.

Gor­don State for­ward Raynere Thorn­ton be­came the third ju­nior col­lege player in nine days to com­mit to the Tigers when he an­nounced his de­ci­sion via so­cial media Satur­day morn­ing fol­low­ing an of­fi­cial cam­pus visit Fri­day. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Ma­ri­etta, Ga., na­tive in­formed the Mem­phis coach­ing staff of his in­ten­tions af­ter a brief ap­pear­ance at the Tigers’ spring foot­ball game Fri­day night along­side point guard Jeremiah Martin.

“This has been a long time com­ing but I’m happy to say that I will con­tinue my bas­ket­ball ca­reer at the Univer­sity of Mem­phis,” Thorn­ton wrote on Twit­ter.

Thorn­ton joins Eastern Florida State Col­lege guard Ka­reem Brew­ton and Ge­or­gia High­lands Col­lege for­ward Kyvon Daven­port as part of a late Mem­phis re­cruit­ing push to help off­set the loss of six trans­fers from last sea­son’s team. Brew­ton, who signed a na­tional letter of in­tent ear­lier this week, and Daven­port were both re­cently named first-team ju­nior col­lege All-Amer­i­cans. They will be the first ju­nior col­lege All-Amer­i­cans to come to Mem­phis since Chris Massie in 2000.

Daven­port, a 6-foot-8 for­ward who com­mit­ted last Sun­day at the con­clu­sion of a cam­pus visit, was ex­pected to sign his na­tional letter of in­tent at a cer­e­mony at his ju­nior col­lege Satur­day.

Rated the No. 48 ju­nior col­lege prospect in the coun­try by ju­core­cruit­ing.com, Thorn­ton av­er­aged 10.9 points, 11.4 re­bounds and 5.9 as­sists this past year and chose the Tigers over of­fers from Kansas State, Iowa State, Ar­kan­sas-Lit­tle Rock and Jack­sonville State, among oth­ers. He had three triple­dou­bles over his fi­nal 10 games, in­clud­ing one in front of Mem­phis as­sis­tant coach Joe Es­pos­ito that ul­ti­mately con­vinced the Tigers to of­fer a schol­ar­ship. Thorn­ton will have two years of el­i­gi­bil­ity re­main­ing when he ar­rives at Mem­phis.

“He’s kind of a like a throw­back, old­school player who re­ally knows how to play the game,” Gor­don State coach Bruce Capers said last month. “The thing that makes him good is he just does a re­ally good job of mak­ing the peo­ple around him bet­ter. His high­est skill set is that of re­bound­ing and pass­ing and get­ting ev­ery­body in­volved be­cause he cre­ates so much at­ten­tion on him­self. A lot of our suc­cess was due to he just makes a lot of play­ers around him bet­ter. He’s a very un­selfish player.”

Mem­phis still has four open schol­ar­ships re­main­ing and must re­place its top three scor­ers and re­bound­ers from last year af­ter the re­cent de­par­tures of sopho­more Dedric Law­son, red­shirt fresh­man K.J. Law­son and ju­nior Markel Craw­ford. Two starters re­turn (Martin and for­ward Ji­mario Rivers) and the Tigers will also add three in­com­ing fresh­men as part of their 2017 re­cruit­ing class.

Coach Tubby Smith is still await­ing a de­ci­sion from guard Chris Dar­ring­ton, an­other first-team ju­nior col­lege AllAmerican who vis­ited cam­pus along with Brew­ton and Daven­port last week­end. The Toledo, Ohio, na­tive is visit­ing Toledo this week­end and is also be­ing re­cruited by Ten­nessee and Ne­braska, among oth­ers.

In ad­di­tion, the Tigers are pur­su­ing 7foot Nige­rian cen­ter Us­man Haruna of Bis­marck State Col­lege and 6-foot-9 for­ward Gar­ri­son Brooks, a high school se­nior from Alabama who re­cently re­ceived a re­lease from his na­tional letter of in­tent with Mis­sis­sippi State. Brooks is a four-star re­cruit and friends with guard Ja­mal John­son, who is the Tigers’ toprated prospect for next sea­son.

Former UNC-Wilmington signee Clay­ton Hughes will also be at Mem­phis on Satur­day for an un­of­fi­cial visit, but the 6-foot-5 Jack­son, Tenn., na­tive does not yet have an of­fer from the Tigers. Matt Stan­ley, a 6-foot-8 for­ward who told The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal last week that he re­ceived a schol­ar­ship of­fer from Mem­phis as­sis­tant coach Saul Smith, is lean­ing to­ward stick­ing with his com­mit­ment to Divi­sion-II Oua­chita Bap­tist Univer­sity, ac­cord­ing to his high school coach, Jerry Bridges.

Smith said in a ra­dio in­ter­view ear­lier this week that he is still in­ter­ested in shoring up the team’s in­te­rior for next sea­son since only 6-foot-10 cen­ter Karim Sameh Azab is on schol­ar­ship at the mo­ment. Thorn­ton and Daven­port, how­ever, could pro­vide re­in­force­ments in­side and both should fit in well with Smith’s de­sire to use more full-court pres­sure and a faster tempo next sea­son.

“Raynere is al­ready as phys­i­cal as it comes. His body is just ready for Divi­sion I right now,” said Bren­dan Walker, the na­tional di­rec­tor of ju­nior col­lege scout­ing and re­cruit­ing for Elite Bas­ket­ball Ser­vices. “He’s a lit­tle un­der­sized and he’s a lot more com­fort­able on the perime­ter mak­ing plays and han­dling it.

“Kyvon’s upside is a lot higher, I think. Raynere is prob­a­bly just more phys­i­cally ready to play right away and make a huge im­pact. Kyvon I still think will play right away, but still needs to get stronger and keep im­prov­ing his shot.”

MARK WE­BER / THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL U OF M BAS­KET­BALL COM­MIT USA TO­DAY NET­WORK – TEN­NESSEE

Univer­sity of Mem­phis coach Tubby Smith’s staff is in the midst of a late re­cruit­ing push to help off­set the loss of six trans­fers from last sea­son’s team.

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