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Derryck Thornton leaving Duke is key for Kentucky in Marques Bolden recruitment

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One-time UK target Derryck Thornton is leaving Duke, which helps pave the way for Marques Bolden.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

As the Kentucky Wildcats and Duke battle for the No. 1 spot in the 2016 recruiting class, one prospect who helped the Blue Devils claim the top spot in 2015 is transferring.

Freshman point guard Derryck Thornton, whom UK was recruiting when he was part of the 2016 class, is now leaving Duke after one year. He reclassified last year to join the Blue Devils in their 2015 class and become the starting point guard last season, but it just didn't work out and now Thornton is being told to leave to make room for Marques Bolden looking for a new school.

This is also significant for Kentucky because these two schools are fighting for five-star center Marques Bolden, but Duke won't have enough room for him unless a guy like Thornton is told to leave decides to transfer.

There's also been a little chatter that UK may actually show interest in Thornton now that he's back on the market. After all, the Cats will likely lose De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk to the NBA draft next year, not to mention Dominique Hawkins graduating. That would leave UK with no point guard and Charles Matthews as the only scholarship guard for the 2017-18 season.

So it may make sense for UK to at least consider Thornton now that he's leaving Duke, but a lot would have to happen in order for that to work. UK would need to have someone unexpectedly leave just to have room to land Thornton or Bolden for that matter. Not having a roster spot assured for anyone is part of why UK didn't let Bolden commit earlier in the recruiting cycle, and they still may not have room for him.

Coach K may be willing to run anyone off for a guy, but Calipari isn't going to run off someone like Marcus Lee or Tai Wynyard to do so. That's pretty much what would have to happen, or Isaiah Briscoe go pro, for there to be room for anyone to join next year's team.

This Thornton transfer has been in the works since Duke's season ended, which is why they've been able to assure Bolen of a roster spot since then, whereas UK is not as certain they'll come up with a free scholarship.

UPDATE

Derryck Thornton's uncle is now speaking out against Duke:

So yeah, Coach K looks really bad with how he's handled this whole situation. He asked Thornton to leave high school a year early and then only gave him one year at Duke before pushing him out for another recruit. That's a terrible look for college coaches in general.