Auburn basketball: Is JT Thor next?

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Auburn basketball: Is JT Thor next?

About one year ago, Auburn’s Chuma Okeke (a once borderline top 50 recruit) was drafted with the No. 16 pick in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft after playing two seasons at Auburn. This year, many expect Auburn freshman Isaac Okoro (a once borderline top 40 recruit) to be a lottery pick and become Auburn’s first one-and-done.

Bruce Pearl mentioned that on an interview he did with Marching to Madness’ Blake Lovell and Ken Cross, saying the success stories Auburn has had with Okoro and Okeke are the kind of things he and his staff are really proud of.

“Who’s next,” Pearl asked. “Who’s the next guy that’s gonna go from not being a McDonald’d All American to being a lottery pick?”

Pearl asking, “who’s next?” stands out to me, because Pearl has a commitment from a player who falls into some similar categories in JT Thor.

Thor is ESPN’s No. 45 player in the class of 2020. Okeke was ranked 50 and Okoro was ranked 40 in their respective classes.

Like Okeke and Okoro, Thor was not a McDonald’s All-American. However, Thor was seen as a top 10 player in 2021 before reclassifying. While not identical to Okoro and Okeke, this is another similarity. Because, Okoro and Okeke weren’t consensus five stars or considered NBA locks when they got to Auburn, but both participated in national events that generally cater to top prospects, with both participating in FIBA events and Okoro having an impressive showing at the Nike Hoops Summit.

At Auburn, Pearl and his staff were able to showcase the talent that got Okeke and Okoro those types of invitations to the point where both players became sure fire first round draft picks.

Thor is a raw talent. The attributes that made him a top 10 player in 2021 are still there. Thor can dribble, run and shoot like a guard, yet he is tall and lanky like a stretch forward.

However, Thor was likely a top 10 recruit in 2021 based on him staying in the class, growing stronger and polishing his game. Missing that extra year caused him to drop in 2020’s class, but I think there is still a chance Pearl can get the most out of Thor, like Pearl has been known for doing in the past.

Not just because Pearl has a record of developing talent and getting the most out of his players, but also because Thor is a great fit for Pearl’s system.

Position wise, I think Thor is more comparable to Okeke. Thor has good size and shot blocking ability on top of being able to handle, shoot and pass. This makes him a good fit for Pearl’s point forward role that players like Okeke and Danjel Purifoy have manned the last two seasons.

Thor’s offensive skill set has been highly regarded for a while. At Huntington Prep, as a junior, Thor put on a clinic at the Chet Mason Invitational, earning MVP honors in the process.

Thor’s ability to rebound and handle the ball should help Auburn’s pace of play and transition opportunities.

Thor also shows promise on defense.

He isn’t as advanced at defending smaller forwards and guards on the perimeter compared to where a sophomore Okeke or a freshman Okoro was, but Thor isn’t afraid to step out and try and shows flashes of ability when he does it.

Taking Thor’s skill set into account and factoring in the high ceiling attributes that made him a top 10 player in 2021 make him a candidate to not only play Pearl’s point forward position but also be the next non-McDonald’s All-American to breakout at Auburn.

Pearl having such notable success stories with top-50 recruits who weren’t McDonald’s All-Americans could pay dividends in a future without a one-and-done rule. Pearl and his staff would be competing with bigger schools for these types of recruits, but it is possible that Auburn will have a better track record with borderline top-50 recruits when that time comes.

from Fly War Eagle

No comments:

Post a Comment