As reported by the AJC this past Thursday, Westlake High School senior forward Marcus Thornton has requested release from his letter of intent from nearby Clemson University after Tigers head coach Oliver Purnell bolted to DePaul University.
Acting as sort of an agent for his son, Thornton’s father, Billy, was asked if either Georgia or Georgia Tech were in the mix to pick up Mr. Georgia Basketball himself. “Absolutely, and for all the obvious reasons…it’s really early because we haven’t had the chance to talk to either of them personally. Georgia Tech is here in the ACC, and they always seem to have a lot of talent there. Georgia is an up-and-coming program. They seem to have some (player) needs.”
I’m sure we can all take confidence in the fact that Mark Fox has given Mr. Thornton a call or two since Marcus made the news he was exploring his options, especially since the word “absolutely” hasn’t exactly been a word we’re used to coming from star recruits when talking about UGA’s program.
The funny thing is, neither Georgia or Tech offered Thornton during the so-called “early period” in November. Not surprising, considering the other offers were from the likes of Wake Forest, Maryland and Xavier. It (or my optimistic thinking) now appears that the two state schools may have an inside track for the 6′7″ stat-machine. With the schools I just mentioned, if they don’t get a big recruit, they just get another one, usually filling out their recruiting classes by the time the McDonald’s All-American game rolls around. While I’m not saying that no school other than UGA and Tech will show interest, the fact that the late signing period (May 19th) creeps closer, staying close to home might not be such a bad idea. Especially with the newfound “success” of each program.
Georgia Tech, after an up and down regular season, found themselves in the ACC Championship game against eventual NCAA champion Duke and almost beat Ohio State in the NCAA tournament. And although the Bulldogs couldn’t win on the road, they proved that Stegman Coliseum does in-fact have a pulse other than during Gym Dog meets. And with Travis Leslie returning and Trey Thompkins on the verge of returning (there’s that optimistic thinking again), the Bulldogs could make some big noise in the SEC next year.
The question is, how does Thornton see this situation? In Georgia, he could see the potential of being “that” freshman that leads a program out of the bottom of the conference to the top. In Tech, Paul Hewitt’s shaky, but consistent competition in arguably the best basketball conference in the country is surely an attractive selling point. However, the biggest selling point has to be Paul Hewitt’s ability to prepare players for an eventual NBA career.
Chris Bosh is the biggest name on the board, but Jarret Jack, Anthony Morrow, Mario West, Will Bynum, and Thaddeus Young are all having decent NBA careers as well. Even Luke Schenscher had a stint with the Bulls and Trail Blazers for a second. In the other corner, Mark Fox only has Nick Fazekas, Ramon Sessions, and Kirk Snyder from his days at Nevada. Sessions is the only player still in the league.
Despite Hewitt’s inability to replicate his NCAA finalist appearance, he does do one thing: get his players paid. And with Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors moving up to the NBA, he’ll have plenty of time to work with Thornton.
Still, Mark Fox should never be taken lightly. Rumor has it that Fox was in California the day after the Dogs lost in the SEC tournament to do some recruiting on some of the Golden State’s biggest players. I have doubts as to whether or not Dennis Felton ever left his office, so there’s an upgrade. I’m sure Fox’s pitch to Thornton will be along the lines of being the part of something big, the revival of Georgia basketball. If anything, he’s got his 1-0 record against Tech in his pocket.
However, Thornton’s orignial choice, Clemson, is still in the race depending on who they hire to replace Purnell. Thornton still has relationships with most of the players there so a sexy new hire might seal the deal once again. Still, one cannot count out Paul Hewitt’s savy recruiting skills or the new kid on the block, Mark Fox, when Mr. Georgia Basketball is now looking for a new home.
Of course this is pure speculation, but this is a blog so speculation is almost a requirement. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Thornton, get familiar with him with this video from the 2010 AAAA Semifinal against Central Gwinnet. The best part of the video is obviously the audio supplied by the amazingly talented DJ Khaled. Oh yeah, Marcus Thornton is pretty good too.