Ohio State Freshman Bruce Thornton Settling in After “Rough” First Week of Summer Training With Buckeyes

By Griffin Strom on July 7, 2022 at 8:35 am
Bruce Thornton
Caitlyn Jordan, Naples Daily News, USA Today Network

Bruce Thornton has long looked like the type of prospect who could make the transition from high school to college basketball appear relatively easy.

But even for the No. 43 player in the country and top recruit in the state of Georgia, the jump up to the next level hasn’t come without growing pains. A month into summer workouts with the Buckeyes, Ohio State’s point guard of the future has begun to settle in, but not before a bit of a rude awakening.

“It was rough my first week getting my feet wet,” Thornton said this past Sunday after making his Kingdom League debut at Ohio Dominican University. “But everybody comes together being very cohesive, connecting together. The bond is just great, I love my team no matter what. The season didn’t even start but I already love them. I feel like we’ve got big things ahead of us.

“The toughest part is just everyday consistency, making sure you go hard every single day. That’s a big main thing. But when you get your feet wet, you understand it’s a business. So when you take it as a business, you have great success.”

Thornton's done his due diligence in terms of commitment to his craft in Alpharetta, Georgia, and beyond over the past several years. But the discipline required to stay on top of a regimented schedule like the one Chris Holtmann’s program employs is a whole different ballgame.

“It was just the conditioning, the weights, just the every day making sure you’re on the schedule making sure you’re tight on everything you do,” Thornton said. “That’s a big thing that Ohio State preaches. It really helped me get my feet wet. This is my fourth week here, just understanding what you have to do every single day and bring your best every day.”

As far as what it’s like to actually play for Holtmann and assistant coach Jake Diebler, who recruited Thornton out of Milton High School, the 6-foot-1 point guard doesn’t have any complaints thus far.

However, Thornton admits Holtmann and company keep high standards for achievement at the Schottenstein Center, even during the start of the summer.

“They’re real fun. They always want the best from you no matter what, on and off the floor,” Thornton said. “They hold you to a high expectation and they really believe in everyone on the team, even the staff, the managers, and that’s a big thing for them.”

By playing in the Kingdom League this summer, Thornton is staying active on the hardwood even when he’s not at Ohio State’s facilities. Thornton participated in his first contest in the Columbus-based summer league event this past weekend and didn’t fail to live up to his recruiting hype.

Thornton controlled the tempo of the matchup for long stretches, facilitated offense for teammates and had little trouble creating his own shots, even when being guarded by former Buckeye guard and longtime professional basketball player Ron Lewis. Thornton knocked down pull-up threes, scored in traffic on a number of dribble-drives and dished off more than a few impressive assists in a winning effort.

And the summer league setting was hardly maximum intensity for Thornton.

“It’s always good to go up and down, have fun, get ready for the season. We have a big season ahead of us, lot of new players,” Thornton said. “Let me get my feet wet, get under control, get my team right together so we can win big games down the line. … This is a great situation. One of my big mentors put me in here, told me to play. I really appreciated playing for this team and Kingdom League is a big experience for me. I can get better every day playing in this tournament.”

Ohio State has high expectations for the first-year Buckeye, which is evidenced by the fact that Holtmann and company never felt the need to add a second pure point guard to the 2022-23 roster this offseason.

The closest thing might be Oklahoma State transfer Isaac Likekele, who may be closer to a point-forward in terms of style of play, but is still likely to handle the one position a good deal while Thornton develops. Likekele has taken Thornton under his wing over the first four weeks of the summer, which is exactly what the Ohio State coaching staff was hoping for when bringing in the former Cowboy.

“I love Ice (Likekele). That’s like my big bro,” Thornton said. “He’s been through all the grits and grimes. He’s showing me the ways of how I can be better as a point guard as a freshman and win games.”

That balance between freshmen and transfers is what the Buckeye roster is largely made up of this season, with Zed Key and Eugene Brown being the only two returning players to play in more than two games last year. 

But despite all the new faces, Thornton said the roster construction has been impressive from what he's seen on the practice courts so far.

“We’re well put together. I feel like Chris Holtmann did a great job putting all of us together,” Thornton said. “We all love each other, I feel like when we all come together it’s gonna be hard to beat us.”

Given the lack of true floor generals on the Buckeye roster, it seems likely that Holtmann expects Thornton to log high-volume minutes early in his Ohio State career. But as for whether Thornton anticipates being a starter right off the bat, he said that won’t be determined until he gets his feet underneath him over the coming months.

“I feel like that will come down the line,” Thornton said. “I just feel like if I keep doing what I do, keep putting in work every single day, my time will come.”

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