Bruce Thornton, AJC boys high school basketball player of the year

March 13, 2021 Macon - Milton's Bruce Thornton (2) brings the ball upcourt during the 2021 GHSA State Basketball Class AAAAAAA Boys Championship game at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Saturday, March 13, 2021 Milton won 52-47 over Berkmar. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

caption arrowCaption
March 13, 2021 Macon - Milton's Bruce Thornton (2) brings the ball upcourt during the 2021 GHSA State Basketball Class AAAAAAA Boys Championship game at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Saturday, March 13, 2021 Milton won 52-47 over Berkmar. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Bruce Thornton is a beyond-the-numbers kind of basketball player. Not that his numbers pale.

ExploreThornton named all-classification player of the year

Thornton, Milton’s 6-foot-2 point guard and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s all-classification boys player of the year, averaged 17.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game this season and led the Eagles to the Class 7A quarterfinals and their fourth consecutive region championship. He signed with Ohio State.

“He’s just willing to do whatever it takes to win,” Milton coach Allen Whitehart said. “If we need 40 points, he does that. If we need 15 assists, he does that. He’s a lock-down defender. He’s almost got a six-to-one assists-to-turnover ratio, which is mind-boggling. That’s why Ohio State is so excited. They’re going to put the ball in his hands from Day 1.”

That’s what Whitehart did four years ago – put the ball in Thornton’s hands as a freshman. Thornton started all 120 games of his high school career. Milton was 96-24 in those games with 18 victories against out-of-state teams as Milton re-established its national prominence.

Milton won a state title in 2021 with a victory against Berkmar in the championship game. Berkmar coach Gregory Phillips recently praised Thornton’s competitiveness and ability to raise the level of those around him.

ExploreAJC all-metro teams

“You see it all the time in the NBA where a player gets his numbers night-in and night-out but the team loses,” Phillips said. “There is just an X-factor with Bruce that he has a will to win, and it rubs off on his teammates. There have been some games where his numbers may not have been great, but he had very few turnovers, ran the offense and made his teammates around him better by example, taking a charge, making the right basketball play on offense, etc. This year he has become a more consistent shooter, which made him much more difficult to guard.”

Many of Thornton’s best games this season came against some of the nation’s best teams. Playing his third game in three days in December, Thornton scored 34 points and had seven rebounds and five assists in a 76-73 loss to then-a national No. 1 IMG Academy at the City of Palms Classic in Florida.

At the Bass Pro in Missouri, again playing his third game in three days, Thornton scored 34 points and had seven rebounds and five assists in a victory against Chicago power Whitney Young. Two nights earlier, Thornton made a 35-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Nixa of Missouri 50-49.

ExploreThornton named Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of Year

Thornton is the son of former Georgia and NFL defensive back Bruce Thornton Sr., but the son is built more like a running back or linebacker at 205 pounds. He’s the state’s most highly recruited senior and the consensus No. 42 prospect nationally.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Bruce is the best player in Georgia,” said coach Jason Dasinger from Milton’s region-rival Etowah. “He may not have the highest scoring average of everyone, but that is by his choosing. He impacts the game more than any player I have ever coached against.”