Thornton is Tigers’ latest juco commit
Program lands third player in nine days
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.”
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.