Marcus Thornton is a 28 year old 193cm guard from Forestville Maryland playing his sixth professional season and first with the NINERS Chemnitz (Germany-BBL) averaging 12,7ppg, 1,2rpg and 3,8apg while shooting 44% from outside. Last season he played with ES Chalon-Sur-Saone (France-Jeep ELITE ProA) playing 23 games averaging 10.4ppg, 1.8rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 43.8%, 3PT: 34.9%, FT: 68.2%. He began his professional career in 2015 and has played for organizations Sydney Kings (Australia-NBL), Consultinvest VL Pesaro (Italy-Serie A), Banvit Basketbol Kulubu (Turkey-BSL), Guangxi Rhinos (China-NBL) and for two G-League teams Maine Red Claws and Canton Charge. He played at the College of William & Mary (NCAA) from 2011-2015 playing a total of 125 es and as a senior averaged 20.0ppg, 2.8rpg, 2.9apg, FGP: 51.8%, 3PT: 40.2%, FT: 82.5%. He spoke to germanhoops.com during the 2020-2021 sea
Marcus thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Despite all the turbulence that the world has experienced in the last months, how blessed are you to be playing professional basketball again with your new team Niners Chemnitz?
I’m extremely blessed to be able to play professionally and with Chemnitz this season. With everything going on, there was a stretch where we weren’t even sure how overseas play would be able to continue. So I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here right now
How did you experience COVID-19 in the States? What do you feel was the most challenging thing that you faced in this time on a daily basis on and off the court?
My experience I’m sure was similar to many other professional players, lockdowns in our respective states, curfews, limited access to being outside of our homes in the early months. I think the most challenging part for me at least, was just accepting the fact there was absolutely no way to get into a gym for a good 2-3 month stretch. Outside of basketball, I didn’t face any personal struggles, I’ve been playing overseas for some time now & I’d say I’m quite comfortable being by myself & occupying my time for long stretches without seeing friends and family.
Some players had no difficulty staying in shape and finding court time while other guys struggled. How was it for you? Were you able to do all the things you normally can during COVID-19 or was it more of a challenge?
I took the time during the lockdown to just focus on my body even more than usual. Without having basketball workouts, I was able to get more into stretching & detailed cardio work to keep me busy. I also used it to clean up my diet and be more mindful of how what I was eating was affecting my body and performance. I just challenged myself to try to be in the best shape I could be and that was motivating enough for me. First, that started with running & eventually got me into jump rope which I found to work well for me.
How do you feel did COVID-19 make you stronger as a man?
I feel like COVID-19 just reassured my passion for the game and my willingness to continue to work hard even without a clear endpoint at the time. It was a test of patience and faith to trust that we’d get back to playing again & I’d be ready whenever it came.
You have seen different countries and leagues in Europe, but what have you learned to appreciate most so far about the country Germany and it’s basketball?
The food has been really good here in Germany, and I’ve loved how easy it’s been to continue with my overall diet and trying to eat cleaner and more healthy. As far as basketball is concerned, I think Germany has a great physical presence. That presence can alter games and keep teams in games, making it very competitive.
The Niners Chemnitz are playing their first season in the easyCredit BBL. How exciting has it been playing for an ambitious team like this and what are the goals of the club?
It’s very exciting to be a part of this and their 1st time being in the BBL. We’ve been able to learn and see what type of atmosphere they’ve built here in Chemnitz over the last few years and I’m excited to join and help continue to build upon what they’ve instilled in this organization. We’re not concerned with focusing on the fact that it’s our 1st year in the league, we know what type of team and talent we have & have high expectations for ourselves. We expect not only to make the playoffs but to be a real contender around that time of year.
What has it been like playing with the point guards Virgil Matthews and Shannon Bogues? Matthews knows German basketball inside out while Bogues brings that American basketball mentality to the club. How do they compliment each other best and what you appreciated most about their games and character?
It’s been great playing with both Virgil and Shannon. Obviously, Virgil has been with this club for some time and has played in Germany even longer, so his knowledge as it pertains to Chemnitz and Germany is just a huge advantage for us as a team, and especially for myself also being a guard and it being my 1st time in Germany. He’s another coach on and off the floor for us and very important to our team. Shannon brings an exciting young energy to our team. His quickness on both sides of the ball really stands out and he brings an energy that I think every good team has! Having the knowledge and intuitiveness of Virgil alongside the talent and speed that Shannon has can only lead to good things and I’m excited to see it all unfold
How have you experienced Terrell Harris as a player? He has gradually moved up the basketball ladder in Germany starting in the 3rd league as a rookie. How much does his chip on his shoulder and competitiveness help build success for the team?
This is my 1st time playing with or against Terrel, he’s another leader on this team that we appreciate. He understands the game, how to play, and deeper than getting to his spots, he also sees how to get other guys in spots to succeed. His competitiveness helps push us to be better in practice every day and shows on the court in his play
You have played with very many coaches in your life, but what has been your early impression of Rodrigo Pastore. He is a top coach in Germany. Is he a guy where you feel that you will be able to learn new things that will continually help your game?
Coach Rodrigo is very passionate and committed not only to the game and x’s & o’s but also to the development and consistent improvement in all of us individually. I do feel I’ll be able to continue to learn under his coaching, he believes me not only as a scorer but as a passer too which I feel is a very underrated part of my gam
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 193cm guard. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
That’s a tough one for me, I don’t feel I identify with anyone NBA player in terms of playing style. But I feel I score the ball well on 3 levels, shoot the 3 at a high clip & create space out on the perimeter whether it be the mid-range or 3 pt area to score similar to CJ McCollum
You were an explosive scorer in the NCAA and as a professional has been consistent helping teams with your scoring ability. What other strengths does your game have that helps not label you only as a scorer?
As mentioned before I feel I have a really good ability to not only pass but to be a playmaker in general, for myself and teammates. I feel my quickness and capabilities with the ball allow me to get others involved seamlessly with my play.
You shot 40% or better from outside in 3 of 4 NCAA seasons and as a professional only in the G-League and Turkey. Do you have a special regimen besides the normal reps and shot selection that you believe in in continuing to become that great shooter?
I have a few different things I do shooting wise I try to do during the season with my shot. I’m grateful that the Niners have 2 shooting machines at our practice facility that are available to us & I spend a lot of time using them. I try to make between 300-500 shots per day and I switch up between different routines to keep it from being boring, also shooting drills with coaches after practice as well.
On what part of your game did you work on most this summer so you would be best prepared for your season in Germany?
This off-season we worked a lot with ball screen scenarios, I wanted to play more of point guard this year to show what I’ve always felt comfortable doing in playing the 1.
Last season you played in France for Chalon. It was sort of a strange season. The club lost a lot, but had this insane ability to win some real tight exciting games at the end against Nanterre, Orleans (129-125), Le Mans and Boulazac. How will you always remember this season?
Yea the season in Chalon was definitely strange, I had some great teammates there during my time and I’m always grateful to meet and bond with other guys embarking on the same journey that make playing together easy as well as being away from home. Each of those guys wanted the best for myself and vice versa
Two seasons ago you played a shorttend season with Banvit Basketbol Kulubu (Turkey-BSL) playing only 7 games. Was this your toughest season to experience as a professional?
Yea that was tough for me, I was looking forward to playing in Turkey and in Banvit that year. I felt I was never really given a chance for whatever reason, the games I played I showed well but everything doesn’t always go your way, so I just tried to learn from it and it’s just another thing added on to the chip on my shoulder
In your third season you played with the Canton Charge (NBA G-League) playing 37 games averaging 18.8ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.9apg, FGP: 43.0%, 3PT: 40.5%, FT: 75.6%. You had some really strong stints that season like scoring 20 or more points in 8 of 9 games and later another stint of 20 points or more in 8 of 9 games. Did you ever feel like you were close to a call up?
It’s hard to say really with those things, you never really know about a call up until it happens really, so many different things go into that situation I feel. But I was grateful to get the call up I did with the Cavs.
You played your first season overseas in 2016-2017 with Consultinvest VL Pesaro (Italy-Serie A) playing 30 games averaging 13.5ppg, 2.1rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 52.1%, 3PT: 34.2%, FT: 74.7%. What was your wake up call to being overseas for the first time where you knew that you were far away from home?
Europe for sure was a different experience for me after being in Australia, I think the more rigorous practice schedule and passion from fans stood out the most
You were drafted by the Boston Celtics in 2015 and began in Australia. After being drafted and playing NBA Summer League, why did you go down under at first and later play in Maine in March 2016?
I was told there was no roster spot available for the team that year, so we decided to go over to Australia to play and with their shorter season I’d be able to come back and play in the G League with the Celtics’ g-league team
What kind of experience was it playing for the Celtics organization and was it disappointing that you never got a NBA call up? Does one feel like you were let down by the organization?
The Celtics are a world-class, great storied organization, I’m grateful for the time I did spend there. It was disappointing as I didn’t get a chance to put my best foot forward, my draft class with the Celtics included 2 other guards before me in Terry Rozier & RJ Hunter, plus 4/5 man Jordan Mickey before choosing me 4th, so I just wasn’t really anywhere near their list of priority of development or seeing what could play out
In your time in the G-League and seeing how NBA organizations function can you vividly recall an experience that you saw with a player where one easily saw that the NBA will always be a business first before anything else?
I don’t recall any up close and personal experiences but you see it all the time I think inside as players but always publically amongst the world as well. Players always seem to vow their loyalty to a team but when teams are ready to discard or move on from guys, the same loyalty isn’t reciprocated
You had a stellar career at the College of William & Mary playing a total of 125 NCAA games. You reached 2 CAA tournament finals, had your number #3 retired and broke Chet Giermak’s school scoring record that lasted 65 years. How do you feel did you not only grow as a player there, but also as a man?
College is always a pivotal time for growth in every player’s career, no matter how much time they spent there. As a man, I felt I was able to come into my own and establish myself as more of a leader than I ever was in high school. Taking more accountability for the team not only through my play but being vocal and trying to keep the team morale at a high level. Confidence wise it just reinforced what I’ve always known, when you put in the work, you reap the benefits, at any level
You had many big wins at William & Mary, but also tough loses like the 75-74 game against Delaware. Is this a game that you can go back and watch or have you forgotten that game over time?
I haven’t gone back to watch that game, but I definitely haven’t forgotten about either. Very tough loss for us but games like that you learn from and carry with you as you move on and up
How did head coach Tony Shaver groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Shaver always believed in me as a player, he helped me a lot with understanding the leadership role I had at W&M and getting me to a point comfortable enough to exude that outwardly
Who won a one on one in practice you or Daniel Dixon?
Daniel Dixon is my guy! Brother for life but no doubt I won any 1 on 1 I’ve played with him and he knows that! Haha
Who was the best player that you ever battled in your life that made it to the NBA?
CJ McCollum, I believed we played Lehigh when I was a sophomore in college at W&M. I had no idea who he was before that game, but that changed after
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time?
My 5 best teammates of all-time: Landry Nnoko, Daniel Dixon, Rashawn Thomas, Brandon Britt, and JaCorey Williams
Please list your personal own NBA Rushmore of past or present NBA players?
My personal NBA Rushmore, past or present: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and LeBron James
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
It’s Michael Jordan for me as the greatest of all-time. Different eras of course as everyone says, but 6-0 in the Finals says it all!
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Marcus for the chat.