If Bruce Thornton had done it his way, he wouldn’t have informed anyone of his decision. He had just, out of the blue, sent a four word tweet that got right to the point: “Committed to Ohio State.”
The Thornton file
- Classroom: 2022
- Cut: 6 feet 2 inches, 200 pounds
- Pos: PG
- School: Milton (Alpharetta, Georgia)
- Composite rating: ★★★★
- Composite rank: # 30 overall, # 7 leader
“Jake (Diebler) was like, ‘Wait a sec,’ said Allen Whitehart, Thornton’s basketball coach at Milton High School.
Whitehart described Thornton as a “simple man” who “isn’t in all the hype.” But when the high-end four-star playmaker from Alpharetta, Ga. Informed Diebler of his plan to go public, Buckeyes’ assistant coach told him to reconsider. As Whitehart said, they wanted to “make it special for him” because it’s a time he’s worked so long and so hard to reach.
Under Diebler and Whitehart’s leadership, Thornton – the country’s 30th overall rookie in the 2022 cycle – made it a celebration. On a live SUVtv broadcast Thursday morning, he announced his commitment to play for the Buckeyes.
ICYMI, Bruce Thornton 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 goaltender Roddy Gayle and three-star shooting guard Bowen Hardman in head coach Chris Holtmann’s 2022 recruiting class. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound headguard chose Ohio State over his other four finalists, which included the National School where both his parents played varsity sports (Georgia), another SEC program (Alabama ) and a pair. Big Ten teams (Indiana and Purdue).
Thanks to his commitment, Thornton is now tied with Malaki Branham and DJ Carton as the highest rated rookie of the Holtmann era.
Thornton did not visit the state of Ohio. The closest he came to Columbus, Whitehart said, was when Milton competed in the Miamisburg-based Flyin ‘To The Hoop tournament earlier this year.
But this lack of first-person familiarity with school over 500 miles away didn’t stop him from making an early decision. This week, nearly a year before he could sign a national letter of intent, he pledged to become the leader of the future of the state of Ohio.
“He’s built on trust and relationships, and I feel like Coach (Chris) Holtmann and Jake are really connected with him,” Whitehart said. Eleven warriors. “It has become more than basketball. With Bruce, basketball is hook, but he already gave me this comment. He said: “Coach, all the top programs that recruit me, all of their facilities and what they have all have the same bells and whistles.” He said it would come down to who can lead me to be better and who can connect me on a personal level.
Holtmann and Diebler have been going to work on this front for the past few months with no ability to bring it to campus.
Whitehart says he initially contacted Diebler and began speaking to her regularly after asking Shannon Scott – a former Buckeye who also went to Milton – if he still has any ties within his college program. For Whitehart, Thornton would be a perfect Big Ten who would fit in like a physical “bulldog” of a playmaker.
“The more they looked, they were like, ‘We have to have it’ or ‘This is the child 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 months that followed, Holtmann and Diebler chased their guy as hard as they could. As the sole recipient of the leader’s offer, he received their full attention.
“Jake did a phenomenal job,” Whitehart said. “He did a phenomenal job recruiting Bruce. I was just like, you gotta build a relationship, man. I said if this kid didn’t trust you, I don’t care what program you are, you don’t stand a chance. So I think Jake just figured that out. I bet they talk every day.
Together, Holtmann and Diebler locked him up. Thornton had no interest in prolonging the recruiting process, which made relationship building the most important aspect. Eventually, he felt comfortable enough with their sensitivity off the field and their plan on the field to maximize his talents to become a Buckeye.
Taking Thornton’s pledge is a massive victory for the state of Ohio, who wanted to pair Meechie Johnson, a mid-year rookie, with a playmaker in the 2022 class. It’s a five-star prospect at the limit whose low-key mentality, physicality, cerebral play and relentless work ethic make him a candidate for Columbus.
“If you watch him play, he’s a pit bull,” Whitehart said. “You will see him soak on a 6 to 9 year old and there will be no facial expression, or you will watch him do a play that gets everyone on their feet and without a change of emotion.
In his sophomore year for Milton, Thornton won first-team All-State First Team honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution first team averaging 23 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. He was a Sophomore All-American MaxPreps for the Georgia High School Powerhouse.
Thornton could have resisted the idea of Blue Bloods knocking on his door or going to schools next summer, if he was allowed to. The Ohio State’s connections and field plan sold him, as did the chance to end the recruiting process he had grown up with contempt for.
“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’ll support whatever you want. I said, you know, you still have options. You still have a year to go before you can sign. He says, ‘Coach, I know this is where I want to be in school.’ ”
So on Thursday he made it official – or as official as anyone still in high school can – by enlisting in the state of Ohio.
In a year, he will sign with the Buckeyes as point guard of the future, and two years later, he will join them on the field.