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Celtics’ Marcus Thornton used to exceeding expectations

Boston Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton spent the night of the draft watching Netflix instead of waiting for his name to be called. Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

SALT LAKE CITY — On the night of the NBA draft, Marcus Thornton was at his parents’ house in Upper Marlboro, Md., watching the television series “Lie to Me” on Netflix.

The former William & Mary point guard was used to being counted out and overlooked, so he had little interest in watching it happen again. But his parents took a different approach.

Wayne and Debra Thornton were offered tickets to the draft from a friend with a connection to Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King. Marcus declined to join his parents, but they went anyway, watching the event from King’s private suite at the Barclays Center.


“My son might actually get drafted tonight,” Wayne Thornton told some new acquaintances in the suite. “We’ll see.”

There was little indication that Thornton would actually get drafted, though. That’s why his parents mostly just enjoyed the night, and that’s why Marcus was home watching Netflix by himself.

And then the 45th pick arrived, and then the Celtics selected Thornton, and then everything changed. It was surely one of the few times in NBA history that a draftee missed the magical moment, but his parents did not.

“We just erupted,” Wayne Thornton said by telephone on Monday, as Marcus prepared to make his Celtics debut in the Utah Jazz Summer League. “It was crazy.”

The pick surprised some close to Thornton, not because he was undeserving, but because they weren’t sure if NBA teams knew what they knew. They weren’t sure if teams had seen what they’d seen.

This was a player who shattered William & Mary’s career scoring record. This was a player former Florida coach Billy Donovan said was as good as any guard his team would face last season — and the Gators played mighty Kentucky three times. This was a player who guided the Tribe to consecutive 20-win seasons after the program had finished with a winning record just twice in the previous 15 years.


No, this selection was not an accident.

“I’ve been coaching for 38 years at different levels, and he’s the hardest-working kid I’ve ever been around,” William & Mary coach Tony Shaver said. “And I’m not sure there’s a close second.”

Thornton didn’t start playing basketball until he was about 9 years old, and even then many of his moves were crafted from watching And1 highlight tapes. He did not make the varsity team at Bishop McNamara High in Forestville, Md., until his junior year.

“But he was just a workout hound,” Bishop McNamara coach Marty Keithline said. “He’d come in every morning before school by himself. We had a shooting machine that tracked shots, and he put up more than 10,000 over about 30 days.”

Wayne Thornton said he sometimes returned home from work to find a group of Marcus’s friends there. Marcus had left them behind to go workout alone.

By the summer before his senior year, Thornton had emerged as a dangerous scorer. But elite colleges were mostly unconvinced. Thornton ultimately committed to William & Mary over schools such as Drexel, Mount St. Mary’s, and Holy Cross.

“Everybody’s route is different, so you just control what you can control,” Thornton said. “You just keep working on your craft and be as prepared as possible. I tried to be a better basketball player for my teammates each year, and when you work, things fall into place.”


Thornton maintained his usual work ethic with the Tribe, going to the gym in the mornings, between classes, and at night. As a senior this season, he averaged 20 points per game, made 40.2 percent of his 3-pointers, and was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s player of the year.

During the pre-draft process, Thornton said, several teams inquired about his willingness to develop his game overseas. Thornton said he was not against the idea, but he wanted teams to know he wished to first compete for a spot.

After the Celtics drafted Thornton, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge emphasized that the team most likely intended to stash him overseas or in the D-League.

The reality is that Boston is overflowing with guards, and barring something unforeseen, there simply will not be room on the roster for Thornton. He was thrilled to be drafted, but there is also a part of him that feels he again has something to prove.

“No matter what they decide to do or ask me to do,” Thornton said, “I think it’s my job to show them why they picked me.”

Wayne Thornton, for one, has seen his son exceed expectations time and again. Now, he hopes it can happen once more.

“His performance on the court has been known to change some people’s minds,” the father said.

.   .   .

The Celtics lost to the Jazz, 100-82, in the opener of the Utah Jazz Summer League on Monday night in Salt Lake City.


Marcus Smart led Boston with 26 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds but shot just 6 of 20 from the field. Jordan Mickey, a second-round draft pick from Louisiana State, was Boston’s bright spot, making 7 of 8 shots for 16 points. The Celtics were 6 of 25 on 3-pointers and they were outrebounded by the Jazz, 51-31.

“I told the guys, this was the first real NBA experience for eight guys,” Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga said. “Hopefully they learned a lot from it.”

First-round pick Terry Rozier had 7 points and 5 rebounds. Boston’s other first-round pick, R.J. Hunter, missed all five of his shots and did not score. Thornton played 5:04, missing his only shot.

Third-year guard Phil Pressey, a late addition to the summer league roster, did not play. Celtics coaches had previously said Pressey would likely play in selected games. Center Colton Iverson has left the team to sign a contract with a professional team overseas, according to a team source.

Iverson was selected by the Pacers in the second round of the 2013 draft and then traded to the Celtics. He played for the Celtics’ summer league teams in each of the past two seasons before ultimately playing in Turkey and Spain.

Iverson was replaced on the roster by former Minnesota center Ralph Sampson III. The Celtics will face the 76ers on Tuesday night.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach @globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.