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Duke Transfer Derryck Thornton visits Kansas

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Duke's Derryck Thornton is on the market after one year in Durham

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

After the season ended, Duke's freshman point guard Derryck Thornton surprised much of the college basketball world by announcing he would transfer. It appears that Thornton was unhappy with his role in the Duke offense, with his uncle apparently telling sources that he felt lied to about how he would be used. Despite having just the fifth highest shot rate on the team, the true freshman was able to log about 26 minutes per game. He also earned 20 starts, though it's notable that he lost his starting job shortly before the NCAA Tournament began, which could potentially have added to any existing turmoil.

Most Kansas fans didn't initially expect Thornton to be on Bill Self's radar, given that it appeared he was seeking more of a lead guard role and Self famously likes to use combo guards and keep multiple ballhandlers on the floor at any given time. However, it was recently announced that KU was one of his top four choices, along with USC, Washington and Miami. USC and Washington have the advantage of being closer to home (Thornton hails from California), and being lower profile basketball programs where he would likely have a chance to make big individual contributions.

Meanwhile, Miami's Jim Larranaga has had a lot of success with transfers at The U, and loses a couple of them at the guard position in Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan this year. Kansas has the distinction of being the only blue blood program on his list. Thornton would likely never be "the guy" at Kansas, but few programs can offer him more exposure. Plus, if he can drive effectively... well, we all know Self likes a point guard who can get to the rim.

As for his freshman campaign, the numbers are a bit disappointing. Standing at 6'2" and coming in as a 5-star recruit, ranked 14th nationally by Rivals, Thornton averaged just 7.1 points and 2.6 assists per game. His offensive rating for the season was 96.7, and in conference play it was a cringe-worthy 83.6. In ACC play, he shot just 14-47 (29.8%) from three point range, and 27-70 (38.6%) overall, while turning it over on 23% of his possessions. His assist rate did rank second on the team at 17.2%, so it appears there is playmaking ability there, which jibes with his scouting report coming out of high school.

He was also billed as having great quickness and a knack for getting to rim, and being a solid, rangy defender (which are no doubt what piqued Bill Self's interest). It was known going into his freshman year that his perimeter game needed some work, so it's not surprising that he struggled there at the college level. We've even seen three point specialists like Svi Mykhailiuk and Conner Frankamp struggle in their freshman campaigns in recent years.

Per hoop-math.com, Thornton took about a third of his shots from the rim, and made 52% of them. That's not a very impressive number, but it's probably worth noting that it's slightly better than Frank Mason has ever posted in the same category. If Thorton can develop his driving and playmaking ability, and use his ranginess to his benefit on the defensive end, he'll be exactly the type of player Bill Self likes at point guard.

No matter where Thornton ends up, he'll be sitting out a year due to NCAA rules. This means that, if he were to choose Kansas, he would be coming in right as Frank Mason leaves. If Devonte Graham were to head to the NBA a year early, it would be especially beneficial to have a 5-star player with a year of top-level experience (plus a year of practice in the system) under his belt. There's room for improvement from his freshman numbers, but we've seen this type of guard make huge strides under Bill Self in recent years (Mason and Tyshawn Taylor come immediately to mind).

Personally, I think it would be a big get for Self and the Jayhawks if Derryck Thornton were to end up in Lawrence. There's no solid timetable for a decision, but he's already visited USC, with visits scheduled at Washington on May 8 and Miami on May 15, so it will be mid-May at the earliest before we hear anything.