William & Mary’s Terry Tarpey approached teammate Marcus Thornton last week to ask him what it feels like to be one of the best scorers in Tribe history.
Thornton had just scorched James Madison for 27 points in an 81-73 win, moving the CAA Player of the Year candidate — and arguably favorite — to fourth on the William & Mary all-time scoring list.
“He said he doesn’t really care about that,” says Tarpey. “He just wants to get a CAA championship.”
Tarpey, a junior forward, wasn’t surprised when he heard the answer. Thornton is never one to search for his name in the headlines. Plus, Tarpey was the real story of that game, recording the first triple-double in William & Mary basketball history with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Regardless of how much the dreadlocked senior’s name is in headlines, Thornton knows the success of the Tribe depends on the effort the rest of his teammates bring.
“I’m confident in what I’m able to do,” says Thornton, who was awarded the preseason Player of the Year award. “I just kind of think around it and lead my teammates.”
Thornton’s humble attitude and hard work ethic has become a defining characteristic of the Tribe. While audiences of William & Mary games have lauded his shooting ability (seven games this season with four or more made 3-pointers and averaging 19.6 PPG), he’s won over his teammates by being a relentless gym rat.
The Tribe turned last year’s CAA championship, which they barely lost, 75-74, into a catalyst for off-season work.
“We were obviously a little disappointed,” Tarpey says. “But we used that as motivation to get up every day and to go work out once, twice a day to make sure we don’t have that same disappointment we had.”
Thornton took it to another level. Since the summer, he’s hit the gym three times a day.
“He gets all the guys working out with him,” says Omar Prewitt, the 2014 CAA Rookie of the Year. “We see how much work he puts in and he inspires us a little bit more every day.”
It’s no wonder the guard has improved both his 3-point shooting percentage and field-goal percentage, from 40-46 percent and 43-47 percent, respectively. But more importantly, he’s led his teammates by example.
“He’s unreal,” marvels Prewitt. “He’s a machine.”
The Maryland-native’s work ethic has also turned his teammates into advocates for his Player-of-the-Year candidacy.
“If there’s other guys who put up numbers like him,” Prewitt says, “I guess they’re deserving, too, but just being on his team, seeing what he does on and off the court, it’s just amazing.”
But for as great of a season as Thornton is having, he is more adept at talking about his teammate’s improvements.
“[Omar] really just has a knack for just being around the ball,” Thornton says “Being able to score in a bunch of different ways; he’s easily one of our most versatile scorers.”
Prewitt (11.4 PPG), as well as sophomore guard Daniel Dixon (11.4 PPG), provide Thornton with support in the backcourt.
Thornton also raved about a do-it-all player like Tarpey. The junior forward leads the Tribe in rebounds (8.3), assists (3.8), steals (1.3) and blocks (1.6).
“Terry does so many things for our team,” Thornton says. “This year he’s really upped his offensive ability.”
The William & Mary players truly see each other as one Tribe. They play like it on the court and they act like it off the court.
“We’re great friends, we truly care for each other,” Tarpey says.
And when opposing teams defend William & Mary like it is a team of individuals, Thornton makes them pay.
“We really invite that,” Thornton says. “We know, and I think team’s that have played us know, that we have other guys, not only myself, that can score the ball, make plays and create good things for our team.”