Derryck Thornton will play for Southern Cal after transferring from Duke. He also considered KU. Gerry Broome AP
Derryck Thornton will play for Southern Cal after transferring from Duke. He also considered KU. Gerry Broome AP

Jayhawk Dispatch

Jesse Newell of The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star takes you inside Kansas sports.

Jayhawk Dispatch

Derryck Thornton picks Southern Cal over KU; Bill Self impressed by freshman Udoka Azubuike

June 17, 2016 04:20 PM

UPDATED June 17, 2016 04:22 PM

Derryck Thornton, a 6-foot-2 point guard who played last year for Duke, will be transferring to Southern California, he announced Friday.

Thornton, who was born in Woodland Hills, Calif., said playing close to home and family played a part in his decision. His other finalists were Kansas, Miami (Fla.) and Washington.

“USC has a great staff, has a great education,” Thornton said in a video posted to Scout.com. “I really love how coach (Andy) Enfield lets his players play with extreme freedom. I think my game will really excel with that type of style.”

Thornton was one of the top recruiting targets for KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self, who still has two scholarships available this year. The team faces a potentially large roster turnover after next season, as Frank Mason and Landen Lucas are seniors, while Josh Jackson, Carlton Bragg, Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham are candidates to leave early for the NBA draft.

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The biggest recruiting name left is Malik Newman, a guard who was Rivals’ eighth-ranked player in the class of 2015. Newman, who announced he was transferring from Mississippi State in late May, visited North Carolina State and Western Kentucky this week and also is scheduled to visit Miami this weekend.

Azubuike stands out

Self has been impressed by the early work of 7-foot freshman Udoka Azubuike.

“I think he probably is a faster learner than what I thought that he may be for a kid that young. He’s picked up stuff pretty quick,” Self said. “I think he’s real excited, because he’s starting to figure some stuff out.”

Self says the way Azubuike attacks the rim reminds him of a scene in the movie “Blue Chips” when Neon Boudeaux (played by Shaquille O’Neal) repeatedly dunks over defenders during a pickup game.

“He is an explosive dude,” Self said of Azubuike. “I can’t get over how athletic he is.”

Azubuike, who is listed at 270 pounds but came to KU at 301, already has started to drop weight. Self believes the pounds will continue to “fall off him,” with the coach envisioning Azubuike could be 280 by the end of the summer.

Self, who also complimented Azubuike for his good feet and soft hands, says KU hasn’t had many other big men with his potential.

“I don’t know if anybody’s more gifted than JoJo (Joel Embiid),” Self said. “But for a true heavy guy, we’ve never had a heavy guy like that — that would be considered a true 5 man. Never.”

Jesse Newell: @jessenewell