Seth Curry was out of the lineup for Duke’s 88-50 pounding of Delaware on Saturday, but you never would have noticed the way the Blue Devils played with Tyler Thornton in his stead. A consummate team player, Thonton started at the off-guard position and helped lead Duke with 10 assists and three steals.
Players like Thornton make good teams great. Someone who is not concerned with points or minutes or their role in the offense, players like Thornton may get overlooked by many casual fans, but to to the diehards and to the coaching staff they are worth their weight in gold.
“The kid who always goes unnoticed is Tyler,” said Mike Krzyzewski. “We can plug him in anywhere, he is a winner. He comes out with 10 assists and tough defense, such an easy guy to play with.”
Thornton started at point guard for much of the end of last season, providing Austin Rivers with a secondary ballhandler and the team with a defensive presence on the perimeter. He also started the first two games of this season despite Coach K saying he would start Quinn Cook during the summer.
Well Cook has taken over the starting job, but Thornton hasn’t said “boo.” He has simply gone out every game and done what is asked of him, making open shots and playing good defense.
On the season, Thornton is 7-of-17 from the field and 6-of-15 from three-point range. While he would likely rather be on the ball, he has become a clutch player on the wing with his timely baskets which develop off of Cook’s driving ability.
Most players might fight back, pout about being pushed out of their primary position. But not Thornton. Like Greg Paulus when Nolan Smith came along, Thornton has settled into his role as a backup primary ballhandler and big-shot artist.
So while Curry, Mason Plumlee and Rasheed Sulaimon get all of the headlines and accolades, Thornton will keep taking the wins.
And so will Duke.
Jimmy Kelley is the founder and lead writer for Devils in Durham. Follow him on Twitter@JKell17