GSN would like to introduce TJ Kelley as a special contributor to GoSpartans.net. When it comes to the prep basketball scene in Michigan, TJ Kelley covers the high school and AAU seasons with the best of them. His coverage includes the top recruits in the state as well as those from around the country. Kelley comes to Go Spartans.net to give subscribers the inside scoop and all the recruiting information that you deserve. Go Spartans.net newest staff member has written for prep websites as well as spending time on Detroit and Lansing's radio airwaves over the last five years. Prior to those experiences Kelley kept a keen eye on Michigan's prep scene over the last twenty years.
DETROIT, MI - He's 6-foot-6, 185-pounds from Cedar Springs,MI., a senior, and one of the most versatile and hard working players in Michigan.
His name is Austin Thornton and he's scorned other schools attention after he was offered a preferred walk-on position by the Michigan State coaching staff. He's not the typical walk-on that State has had in the past as he should find quality playing time in quality games early in his freshman year.
I last saw him play a few weeks ago as Cedar Springs took out the then #1 team in Michigan's Class B, East Grand Rapids. He scored 22 and grabbed 13 boards as he played the 1-5 positions against 5-foot-10 point guard and U of M bound Kelvin Grady as well as University of Toledo 6-foot-8 recruit Justin Anyijong.
In December, he went head to head 6-foot-5 Michigan State recruit Durrell Summers and Redford Covenant. Thornton was the star player in that game as well.
Perhaps those performances convinced the Spartans' coaching staff that this might be a piece to the puzzle in efforts to make a run towards another NCAA national championship.
Thornton's biggest asset is his tough scrappy play -things that MSU head coach Tom Izzo loves. I see him as a "glue" player that can come off the bench and help lead the rally.
He has decent size, rebounds well, sees the floor, and is a solid shooter from anywhere inside 19 feet. His ball-handling and defense are sufficient now but, sufficient doesn't sit with coach Izzo well.
I expect that those areas of his game will improve in time with the solid coaching that MSU will provide for this diamond-in-the-rough type player.