N.C. Pro Am – Thornton is efficient in his short stint

Duke freshman Tyler Thornton surveys the court at the N.C. Pro Am - photo Rick Crank/BDN

DURHAM, N.C - Three Duke Blue Devils took to the court at the N.C. Pro Am on Tuesday evening on the campus of  N.C. Central University.  This was the first appearance  for Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly fresh off the national championship and the two scored 10 points apiece while their team lost by 8 points.  True freshman Tyler Thornton added 8 points.

In the preceding game, Team Stackhouse held off a game Team 212  on their way to a 4 point overtime win.  A packed facility saw Harrison Barnes display his various skills scoring 31 points while his teammates Reggie Bullock added 21 and 20 points.   In coming freshman point guard Kendall Marshall took in the action from the sidelines as his teammates took the majority of the shots.

While the Tar Heels played the entire game, that was far from the case in the third game, the most disjointed game of the evening.  Kelly was the exception, playing much of the game if for no other reason than his team had just one other guy over 6-4.  Kelly looks thicker than last season and it is obvious that he has worked on gaining weight in the off season.  I had Kelly at 8 rebounds unofficially. 

Kelly struggled from the free throw stripe and his shot wasn't as accurate as I have seen, but he showed nice athletic moves polishing off two dunks on successive offensive possessions and moved well with the ball, always looking for open teammates.  He couldn't  help but wear down playing so many minutes inside.

It was quite a different story for Andre Dawkins who opened the game with a strong one handed throw down dunk and a three point shot.  After starting the game, Dawkins was then benched until the fourth quarter.  Here is the culprit, his team had 13 players on the bench.  Yep, that's right 18 players on the team.

A bulked up Ryan Kelly drives the ball upcourt - Rick Crank/BDN Photo

Of those 18 players, several off them were in way over their heads and the Team Navy coach seemingly wanted to play all of them which prevented any hope of victory or good basketball.  Dawkins move better with the ball in hands and showed that he continually gets better athletically.

Then there was Tyler Thornton, who to me, was the most impressive of the group despite maybe one quarter of play.  Thornton's efficiency was evident where he was 3 of 3 from the floor, dishing 3 assists.  He was the best guard on the court when in the game, playing under control, looking for his teammates.  In short, he played smart.  All of that went to the wayside when players from the bench came in and jacked up ridiculous one on one shots which cheapened the game in terms of competitiveness.

Thornton moves well with the ball and is quicker than many realize.  He is more than capable of earning a little burn in his first season at Duke despite the tremendous depth on the roster.  In short, there will be a role for Thornton.  One of his perceived weaknesses was his three point shot, but BDN has told you in the past that he has been working on that part of his game.

The true freshman showed the ability to catch and shoot nailing one three from the corner barely moving the net.  In fact he hit both of his shots beyond the stripe. 

Most of the Blue Devils will play in the event, but Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have been working on their skills at the LeBron James Skills Academy where both college and high school players participate.  The much anticipated debut of Kyrie Irving will likely come next week where he joins Kyle Singler on his team.

Interestingly, the Duke players are scattered about on the teams, while Team Stackhouse has been dubbed Team Tar Heel by the fans.  N.C. State fans got a chance to see their incoming class last evening where Ryan Harrow took to the court for the first time as well.

The event continues on Thursday evening and the games start at 6:00.  Admission is absolutely free, but be prepared to walk a good ways to get in due to construction which cut out an entire parking lot.  Crowds have been outstanding to date and at times were approaching capacity.  Once the event settles in and the players appear on a more consistent basis that crowd may well push a record. 

Duke fans can only hope that they see more of their players like the efficient Tyler Thornton.  And the reason fans turn out is to see the local schools kids play.  My understanding is that the issue of playing time for the better players will be addressed, but in fairness, this only happened in the third contest. 

Be sure to check the N.C. Pro Am out for it is good free entertainment in a friendly atmosphere.

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