If Bruce Thornton had it his way, he wouldn’t have told anybody of his decision. He’d had just, out of the blue, sent out a four-word tweet that got straight to the point: “Committed to Ohio State.”
The Thornton File
- Class: 2022
- Size: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
- Pos: PG
- School: Milton (Alpharetta, Georgia)
- Composite Rating: ★★★★
- Composite Rank: #30 overall, #7 point guard
“Jake (Diebler) was like, ‘Wait a second,’” said Allen Whitehart, Thornton’s basketball coach at Milton High School.
Whitehart described Thornton as a “simple man” who’s “not into all the hoopla.” But when the high-end four-star point guard from Alpharetta, Georgia, told Diebler of his plan to make his decision public, the Buckeyes assistant coach told him to reconsider. As Whitehart put it, they wanted to “make it special for him” since this is a moment he’s worked so long and hard to reach.
With the direction of Diebler and Whitehart, Thornton – the nation’s No. 30-ranked overall recruit in the 2022 cycle – made a celebration of it. On a SUVtv live stream Thursday morning, he announced his commitment to play for the Buckeyes.
ICYMI, Bruce Thornton has committed to Ohio State University@Bruce2T_ @TheSkillFactory @milton_hoops @MiltonHighSch @coach_agibbs @OSUHoopsInsider @osusportsnet @OhioStateHoops #SUVtv pic.twitter.com/lIpih3WFl7— SUVtv (@SUVtv) November 26, 2020
Thornton, the seventh-best point guard in his class, joins four-star shooting guard Roddy Gayle and three-star shooting guard Bowen Hardman in head coach Chris Holtmann’s 2022 recruiting class. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound lead guard chose Ohio State over his other four finalists, which included the home-state school where both of his parents played college sports (Georgia), a fellow SEC program (Alabama) and a pair of Big Ten teams (Indiana and Purdue).
Thornton hasn’t taken a visit to Ohio State. The closest he has come to Columbus, Whitehart said, was when Milton participated in the Miamisburg-based Flyin' To The Hoop tournament earlier this year.
But that lack of first-person familiarity with the school more than 500 miles away didn’t stop him from making an early decision. This week, nearly a year before he’ll be able to sign a National Letter of Intent, he made a pledge to become Ohio State’s point guard of the future.
“He's built on trust and relationships, and I feel like coach (Chris) Holtmann and Jake have really connected with him,” Whitehart told Eleven Warriors. “It became more than basketball. With Bruce, basketball's the hook, but he's made this comment to me before. He said, ‘Coach, all the high-level programs that are recruiting me, all their facilities and what they have all have the same bells and whistles.’ He said it's going to come down to who can drive me to be better and who can connect with me on a personal level.”
|NAME||POSITION||OVERALL RANKING||POSITION RANKING||DATE OF COMMITMENT|
|BOWEN HARDMAN||SG||No. 149||No. 23||MAY 13, 2020|
|RODDY GAYLE||SG||No. 76||No. 7||NOV. 13, 2020|
|BRUCE THORNTON||PG||No. 30||No. 7||NOV. 26, 2020|
Holtmann and Diebler went to work on that front over the past several months without any ability to bring him onto campus.
Whitehart says he originally connected with Diebler and started speaking regularly with him after asking Shannon Scott – a former Buckeye who also went to Milton – if he still has any connections within his college program. To Whitehart, Thornton would be a perfect Big Ten guard who’d fit in as a physical “bulldog” of a point guard.
“The more and more they watched, they were like, ‘We've got to have him,’ or ‘He's the kid we want. We feel like we can win a championship with him running the show’” Whitehart said.
Thornton received his Ohio State scholarship offer on June 10. In the ensuing months, Holtmann and Diebler chased their guy as hard as they could. As their only point guard offer recipient, he received all of their attention.
“Jake's done a phenomenal job,” Whitehart said. “He has done a phenomenal job in recruiting Bruce. I was just like, you've got to create a relationship, man. I said if this kid doesn't trust you, I don't care what program you are, you don't have a chance. So I think Jake just understood that. I bet they talk daily.”
Together, Holtmann and Diebler locked him down. Thornton had no interest in extending the recruiting process, which made relationship-building the most important aspect. Eventually, he felt comfortable enough with both their away-from-the-court sensibilities and on-court plan to maximize his talents to become a Buckeye.
Picking up a pledge from Thornton is a massive win for Ohio State, which wanted to pair up midyear enrollee Meechie Johnson with a point guard in the 2022 class. He’s a borderline five-star prospect whose low-key mentality, physicality, cerebral play and relentless work ethic make him a fit in Columbus.
“If you watch him play, he's a pit bull,” Whitehart said. “You'll see him dunk on a 6-9 kid and there'll be no facial expression, or you'll watch him make a play that brings everybody to their feet and no change of emotion.”
As a sophomore for Milton, Thornton earned Atlanta Journal-Constitution first-team All-State honors by averaging 23 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. He was a MaxPreps Sophomore All-American for the Georgia high school powerhouse.
Thornton could have held out for blue-bloods to come knocking on his door or to visit schools next summer, if allowed. The relationships and on-court plan at Ohio State sold him, and so did the chance to end the recruiting process for which he’d grown disdain.
“He's a different kid,” Whitehart said. “He's like, ‘Coach, this is where I want to go to school.’ I'm like, you know what, we're going to back whatever you want. I said, you know, you've still got options. You've still got a year before you can sign. He's like, ‘Coach, I know that's where I want to be in school.’”
So on Thursday, he made it official – or as official as anybody who’s still a junior in high school can make it – by committing to Ohio State.
In a year, he’ll sign with the Buckeyes as their point guard of the future, and two years later he’ll join them on the court.