Ask the media, his teammates, his coach or anybody who knows CU men’s basketball guard Dwight Thorne II and they’ll tell you the same thing about him.
“He just defines class,” said head coach Jeff Bzdelik.
The senior from Arlington, Texas has had an up-and-down season, his last here at Colorado, going from a starter to coming off the bench and seeing his minutes go to newcomers such as freshman Alec Burks and junior Marcus Relphorde. As a result his numbers have gone down (12.0 points a game in 2008-09 to 7.5 this year) as has his time in the spotlight.
But as his teammates will attest, his impact and influence on the team has increased.
“He’s just been a steady voice throughout his time here,” said junior guard Cory Higgins.
The usually stoic Higgins was clearly sad to see his backcourt mate of three years depart.
“He keeps everybody level-headed and does all the little things for the team that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Not only has Thorne experienced individual difficulties, but during his tenure at Colorado the program hasn’t had its best run. Some of his former teammates, recruited by former CU coach Ricardo Patton, have had success elsewhere after leaving the program.
Junior Xavier Silas, who was suspended by Bzdelik during his sophomore season, transferred to Northern Illinois and leads the Huskies in scoring in 2010 with 19.7 points per game.
Junior Jeremy Williams has been a carbon-copy of Relphorde during his stint in Division I basketball, averaging 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds as a freshman at Colorado, then sitting out a season due to academic suspension, before transferring to junior college and finally ending up at UTEP. He’s now averaging 10.5 points and 5.0 boards a game for the Miners, who are in the AP top 25 and clinched the Conference USA title (and thus a spot in the NCAA tournament).
Thorne has been on the other side of the spectrum: In fact, he has suffered 77 losses in his time in Boulder, the most of any player in men’s basketball history. Needless to say, he and his teammates want nothing more than to send Dwight out a winner.
“I haven’t played in the postseason in my career, and I know Dwight wants to play in the postseason bad,” said junior forward Casey Crawford, who happens to be Thorne’s roommate. “We’re all going to play our tails off for him.”
In order to do that, the Buffs first have to take care of business against a tough Texas Tech team, who has beaten the likes of Washington, the aforementioned UTEP, and Oklahoma State this season. And despite being in the midst of a six-game losing streak, the team knows not to take this one lightly.
“There’s such a fine line between winning and losing and they are such a desperate team and a very good team,” Bzdelik said, drawing a comparison to his own team coming up on the short end of the stick in many close Big 12 games over the past three years.
“Every night in the Big 12 you play someone good, believe me, you can lose games and still play very good basketball,” Bzdelik said.
After utilizing their transition offense effectively in their last few home games, the team knows good rebounding is key to establishing an up-tempo game.
“We’re going to try and run on them,” Thorne said. “They like to shoot a lot of threes, so if we can get some long rebounds, hit guys with some outlet passes and run on them, in this altitude I think we’ll have the advantage.”
Hopefully Colorado can parlay a good performance on Saturday into some momentum heading into the Big 12 Tournament, which starts Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo. A few wins could be the difference between an NIT birth and sitting at home for the fifth straight year. The Buffs have a chance to win three straight conference games for only the second time in five years.
But even with the pressure to perform so high, coach Bzdelik and company are still taking the one game at a time approach that has served the young team well so far.
As for Thorne, the praise he received goes well beyond his basketball skills.
“He [Dwight] is an excellent student-athlete, he’s been a great mentor to our young players, and he represents the university and the team and everyone who’s worn Colorado across their chests in such a first-class way,” Bzdelik said.
“Dwight’s been like the big brother on the team,” said Higgins, one of those players Thorne has taken under his wing. “We’re going to miss him a lot.”
And as for the man himself, he’s approaching his last home game as a Buffalo in typical Dwight fashion.
“To be honest, I haven’t thought about it a lot,” Throne said. “I’m just anxious to get out there, play well, and get the win. Winning this game would be huge, we need it, and I think we’re going to get it.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer David Starcer at firstname.lastname@example.org.