School life for Gonzaga College High School’s Tyler Thornton couldn’t be any tougher. The Virginia native wakes up earlier than his classmates just to catch the Metro to Washington D.C. to attend school everyday. As a senior,he’s ambushed with miles of school work upon his arrival and of course there’s the nagging pet peeve of every high schooler, homework.
But on the basketball court, things are pretty smooth for the starting point guard of the top-ranked team in the District. The 6′2″180 lb Eagles’ guard is surrounded by an endless array of talented players and his team recently knocked off last week’s first-placed school, Gonzaga’s long-time rival DeMatha, 67-65 in an overtime thriller.
Thornton’s efforts throughout his four years on the court helped the Eagles win a state title in 2007 and have also helped him land a full scholarship to Duke University, which he will attend next year. Throughout his recruitment, Thornton received interest from basketball powerhouses Georgetown, Villanova, Wake Forest, Virginia and even Maryland but the guard’s ambition to attend Duke was bigger than just playing basketball.
“I choose Duke because of the great balance [between] basketball and school,” Thornton said. “I also want to be a coach when I finish playing and Coach K (Duke Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski) is the best person to go to. He brings back all his players to coach with him.”
As the most decorated player on one of the nation’s best high school teams, Thornton’s leadership, poise and willingness to get others involved are what his teammates and scouts love about him the most. His 15 points per game scoring average is just second on his team, but ask any Gonzaga player or their head coach, Steve Turner, and they’ll tell you whose team it is.
During what’s called a “light” practice, Thornton is the first player to lead the troops on lay up drills. He constantly slaps fives and throws encouraging jabs at his teammates whether they make or miss a shot. During a scrimmage, he’s the loudest on the floor, ushering teammates on where to go and where to line up. It’s leadership traits like those that has Thornton ready to leave one of the top high schools in the nation and graduate to one of the top colleges in the nation. But for Thornton, leadership is just something that comes natural.
“I’ve always been a leader ever since I was young coming up,” Thornton admitted. “I’ve always been vocal on the court and I’ve always played hard and people have always looked up to me so I guess it comes naturally. I just like to play with these guys, I love these guys, there my brothers so it’s just fun.”
Thornton started playing basketball when he was just 10-years-old. While he was already playing football at the age of eight, he decided the hardwood was the route to go after seeing his football teammates continuously flock to the gym after practice. A strong admirer of NBA point guards Chris Paul and Jason Kidd and Duke’s Nolan Smith, Thornton has worked extremely hard to get his game collegiate-ready.
It was his work ethic that allowed Thornton to stand out on his D.C. Assault AAU team a couple of years ago, a roster jam-packed with some of the area’s best talent. Playing alongside fellow Duke recruit Josh Hairston and teammates Cedrick Lindsay and Malcolm Lemmons, Thornton received recognition for his superb play and hard work, two things that he’s been working on for a while now.
“Ever since I started playing I’d go out on Saturdays when people are watching cartoons, it’s 10 degrees outside, I’m outside shooting with my father,” Thornton said. “I’ve always just had that work ethic to push harder and get better so I can be able to play and perform well on the court.”
With his Eagles currently sitting atop the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference standings and a strong chance at securing another state championship this year, Thornton is focused on the mission at hand.
So although his school life couldn’t be any tougher right now, when it comes to Thronton’s blossoming basketball career, things couldn’t be any better.