One of Auburn’s newest faces on the men’s basketball team this season originally hails from over 4,000 miles away and grew up facing the harsh winters of Alaska.
After adapting to life, and heat, of the South during his only season at Norcross High in Georgia, JT Thor is now transitioning to becoming a key member of the Auburn basketball team.
“I think he’s a little bit more comfortable,” said head coach Bruce Pearl. “That comes with some repetitions. He’s beginning to see his opportunities.
"A lot of times a young basketball player, they look at it and ‘Where are my opportunities?’ — either as a passer or a playmaker or a driver or a shooter. We put them in advantage-disadvantage situations, and then he obviously has the athletic ability and the skill level to take advantage of those moments."
As a senior at Norcross High, he was ranked as the third-best player in the state by ESPN. Now, he's trying to become a leader for the Tigers.
While Thor admits that the first few games were played at a much-faster pace than high school, Pearl feels like the young athlete is finally beginning to settle into his own.
The 6’10 freshman forward certainly has been finding opportunities. Aside from the UCF loss, Thor has scored at least seven or more points in every game and is averaging 7.9 points per game in just over 19 minutes of play — fourth on the team, and the second-highest among freshmen.
“JT is trying to learn and listen and has been really coachable,” said Pearl. “He wants to understand, and then once he does, you’re not worried about where you’re supposed to be and when. Instead, you get there and then you’re able to make plays.” ‘
The Tigers (5-2 overall) have been able to make plays and put themselves in a good position to win with solid defense. In the last three games, Auburn has given up 71, 63 and 41 points in wins over Memphis, Texas Southern and Troy, respectively.
Pearl says he has been pleased with the Tigers' defensive efforts so far.
"We’ll just see if we can continue that. A lot of times, it’s about matchups," said Pearl.
"We’re getting better. We’re learning a lot. Here’s a crazy advantage: in a quieter arena, you’re able to communicate better. One of the things for me with a young team is I’m able to and they’re able to communicate with themselves better. That has helped us being such a young, inexperienced team. When we do talk our actions, which helps us understand each other what we’re trying to do, because obviously you’ve got to make a physical and verbal read on the guy next to you and try to determine what he’s doing to determine what you need to do defensively. Experiencing it physically, which we do not have a lot of experience, if you can talk your actions, it helps.
Auburn played Appalachian State after print deadline, but will open up SEC play after Christmas break when the Tigers host Arkansas at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Auburn Arena.