University of Kansas

KU basketball interested in former Duke guard

Derryck Thornton started 20 games last season for Duke.
Derryck Thornton started 20 games last season for Duke. Associated Press

The Kansas men’s basketball team still has scholarships to fill, and a top target appears to be a former Duke point guard.

Guard Derryck Thornton, the 14th-ranked player in the class of 2015 according to Rivals, received a visit from KU coach Bill Self and assistant coach Jerrance Howard on Monday, according to Matt Scott of 247sports. The meeting was later confirmed by ESPN’s Jeff Borzello.

The 6-foot-2 Thornton, who announced he was transferring on April 10, started 20 of 36 games last season for the Blue Devils, averaging 7.1 points and 2.6 assists.

His decision to leave Duke appears to be because of philosophical differences. Thornton’s trainer, Mark Edwards, criticized Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on his Twitter account April 10, saying Thornton was lied to as a recruit. In an interview with 247sports’ Jerry Meyer, Edwards said Thornton was told by Duke’s staff he would be used in a ball-screen offense. Edwards said Thornton only received about 20 ball-screen opportunities in 2015-16.

That could be a selling point for KU, as this year, Self utilized more high-ball screen looks than past seasons to play to the strengths of guard Frank Mason and forward Perry Ellis. Thornton also met with Miami’s coaches on Tuesday, according to the Palm Beach Post.

The Jayhawks have 11 scholarships filled, meaning at least two are available for this year’s class. That number could become three if forward Cheick Diallo — as expected — remains in the NBA Draft. As of now, the 6-foot-9 forward has declared but has not hired an agent, meaning he has until May 25 to make a final decision.

Self rarely leaves his scholarships unfilled and is likely to land one or two transfers before next season. Another guard option appeared to be Delaware’s Kory Holden, but he narrowed his choices to Baylor, Virginia Tech and South Carolina on Wednesday, according to Borzello.

San Francisco’s Devin Watson also is considering KU, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. The 6-foot-1 guard, who also would have to sit a year to play two, is looking at Cal, UNLV, Fresno State and San Diego State.

A main focus for KU’s staff appears to be getting security at guard for the 2017-18 season. Mason will be a senior, while Svi Mykhailiuk and Josh Jackson are likely to turn pro. With a good season, junior Devonte’ Graham also could consider leaving early, especially because he’s a year older than his grade after he spent a pre-KU year in prep school.

The Jayhawks also could be looking for another freshman big man, which includes a late push for Rivals’ 20th-ranked player Jarrett Allen. Self and Howard met with Allen on Tuesday according to Scott, though Houston and Texas are still considered favorites to land him.

Self also could look to the graduate transfer market, which would allow KU to use this year’s scholarship before recouping it at the end of the season. The biggest need would likely be a big man who could compete for reserve minutes behind starters Carlton Bragg and Landen Lucas, though there might be a limited number of candidates who would fit that role.

Jesse Newell: @jessenewell