My NBA Journey: Marcus Thornton

By Marcus Thornton, as told to Alex Busch

My journey has been a grind.

I’m from Prince George’s County in Maryland. I was always surrounded by a lot of talent. It always made me work hard.

I really never thought too much about playing in the pros. I just wanted to continue to play my best and get better; I just felt that if I kept working and got better that my game could come into its own, and the pros could be an opportunity for me.

In high school I always played against the top talent — the top talent not just in the area, but from around the country. When I’d play well, it felt great. I’d be really proud of myself.

My senior year was incredible. I was named the Player of the Year in the entire state. So many great players come out of my area and my league alone. I worked for it, but it was a total effort from my teammates, coaches, trainers and it all came together.

As everyone knows, PG County has produced some great basketball talent. When you look at guys from Quinn Cook, who I played against, to Kevin Durant, who was a little older, but he came from the same area. A lot of us run into each other around the AAU circuit so we all know and support each other.

WICHITA, KS – NOVEMBER 14: Guard Marcus Thornton #3 of the William & Mary Tribe hits a three-point shot against the Wichita State Shockers during the second half on November 14, 2013 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas. Wichita State defeated William & Mary 79-62. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

William & Mary had been recruiting me for a long time, they were one of the most persistent schools. I really felt the love and I felt like the really wanted me to be a big part of their program, so that’s the route I chose.

During my senior year, I became the all-time leading scorer at William & Mary. That was great, I remember the game like it was yesterday. It’s not something that you go in there to do, but it’s real humbling, and I’m proud of it.

Going into the draft, I didn’t know if I had a chance at getting drafted or not. I did well at all of the pre-draft workouts, but sometimes you just never know. Things can change at any time.

My name was called and I was extremely blessed and honored to have to opportunity with the Boston Celtics. It was also the first draft pick out of William & Mary, so they were super proud of me and were supporting me the entire way. I got a lot of love from them and still do to this day.

The Celtics kind of gave me an option, whether to play in the G League or to go overseas. They didn’t have a roster spot open that year so I chose to go overseas and start with that option.

I played with the Sydney Kings in Australia. It was interesting. A long flight, a very long flight. I was playing in cool cities, but our team struggled that year. At the end of the day, though, it was an incredible experience for me.

I played in Maine with the Red Claws, but then went overseas again.

We had a tough season there too with Consultinvest Pesaro. But it was a tough, physical league. One of the best in Italy. Playing with those guys over there, against top talent overseas, going up against the best guys over there night in and night out really helps you grow.

Over here with the Canton Charge this year, I’m just trying to play well every night. I want to be consistent. Being able to defend in this league is huge. Being coachable, listening to the coaches, paying attention to detail, those are so important. I just want to be a team player no matter if things are going good or bad.

I think I have the skill level and have the athleticism to play in the league. I can shoot the ball pretty well. I have the speed and ability to create my shot at the NBA level. I think I’ve shown that a lot this year.

But a lot of it is just opportunity.

If I get that opportunity and am put in position to have some success, I know that I can make it happen.

After being drafted 45th overall by the Boston Celtics in 2015, Thornton played overseas with the Sydney Kings in Australia, before joining the NBA G League and playing for the Maine Red Claws in 2016. Last season he played overseas again with Consultinvest Pesaro in Italy. Thornton has played as a prospect player with the Canton Charge this season, averaging 18.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game in 36 games.