The environment at AAU tournaments is so unique -- every move teenagers make is evaluated by coaches, even ones off the court.
A kid walks by with some height, and the up-and-down "look test" is quickly done.
Nice build? Good frame to add muscle? Big feet -- better for balance on taller kids?
Carmel's Torrie Thornton, a Class of 2011 Purdue commit, passes.
Thornton is one of those "wow" kids. You can sit down to watch a game, not knowing any of the players, and she immediately sticks out. (Can you guess which player she is in the video?)
Not just because her 6-foot-1 frame or her long arms that allow her to play bigger than that size or her chiseled shoulders. She just has talent.
She's a left-handed shooter but primarily dribbles with her right hand. She runs the floor well. She has nice hops and will battle for rebounds. She seems to have good range, and she often uses the backboard (on purpose) to bank shots in.
She also makes her teammates better -- and is willing to share the ball.
All that was evident in the two games I saw Thornton play at the Fila Derby Classic in Louisville.
In one sequence, she scored from the post, got the rebound on the other end, pushed the ball up the court herself, found a teammate for the assist, trapped a guard on the inbound and tipped the ball for a steal for a teammate that resulted in free throws.
Thornton is going to be fun to watch in West Lafayette with classmate Liza Clemons, a Fort Wayne product.
"Definitely we're going to try to keep things the Purdue way and keep winning," Thornton said. "We've never played on the same team, but since elementary school, middle school, we've known each other, played against each other. It's kind of like we've always been rivals, but in the last couple years, we've become friends and definitely getting to know each other better."
With the pressure off after deciding her college choice early, Thornton said she's focusing on improving her shot, mid-range and from three, and developing more post moves.
But she's really not even sure which position she identifies with.
That changes at Carmel and with her AAU team.
"I really don't have one position, which is something me and my mom were talking about before. Everybody kind of has their own kind of role, and I feel like I fill in where I'm needed," she said. "It's good (to be versatile), so I definitely get to be on different parts of the floor, defensively and offensively and down low and bringing the ball up the court. I'm getting a lot of experience, so hopefully that will help me in college."
She said if she's going to play in the post in college, she needs to get stronger. But if she's going to play more on the perimeter, she must develop a more consistent shot.
NCAA rules prevent Purdue coach Sharon Versyp from speaking about recruits who have yet to sign a Letter of Intent. Thornton said she'll do that in November.
For now, she's just happy she's able to relax a bit this summer.
"People ask me all the time why I committed so early, but if you know where you want to go and if it fits all the things you wanted in a school, then why wait?" she said. "So it was good because I got to focus more on school, focus more on getting better. I wasn't worried about it. It's something that a lot of people are stressing about now. I'm lucky I don't have to."