Marcus Thornton demonstrated early that he was a rare talent in William and Mary basketball history. He concludes his career with even rarer credentials.
Thornton, who recently became the Tribe's career scoring leader, was the school's first Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, in voting by league coaches and media. He edged Drexel's Damion Lee 21-19 in the voting.
Thornton led William and Mary to an 18-11 record and a tie for first place in the CAA, as well as the program's first No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament.
He is just the third William and Mary player to be voted first-team All-CAA, joining Adam Hess (2003-04) and Randy Bracy (1998). He was voted first-team last season, as well, and he joins Hess as the program's only two-time honorees.
"It's an amazing honor, especially in a league with so many great players like the CAA," Thornton said. "I am blessed and humbled to be recognized and grateful for the opportunity to play at William and Mary. While I am thankful for the award, the most important thing to me is trying to win a CAA championship together with my teammates in Baltimore."
Teammate Terry Tarpey was named Defensive Player of the Year. He led the conference in rebounding, steals and blocks.
Thornton was second in the conference in scoring, at 19.4 points per game, to Lee. He shot 46 percent from the field, 41 percent from 3-point range and was among the league leaders in shooting, 3-pointers and free-throw percentage.
Thornton set W&M's career scoring record in a Feb. 25 game versus Towson, passing Chet Giermak's total of 2,052 points. Giermak's mark had stood since 1950 and was the oldest Division I scoring record in the country.
Thornton has 2,081 points heading to the CAA tournament in Baltimore and will have at least two more games to add to the total. As the No. 1 seed, the Tribe clinched a berth in the NIT if it doesn't win the CAA tournament and accompanying NCAA tournament berth.
Thornton is 11th in CAA history in career scoring, 36 points away from former Old Dominion star Odell Hodge (2,117). Already the school's career leader in 3-pointers made (308), he is in fifth place in CAA history, 12 shy of ex-James Madison star Kent Culuko for fourth place.
More important than the numbers, Thornton helped elevate a program that won just six games when he was a freshman to 20 wins last season and the CAA title game, followed by this season's co-championship and No. 1 tournament seed.
A natural shooting guard, he added to his game each year with a relentless work ethic. He slid over from shooting guard to point guard this season and embraced the task of running the show for a young team that has nine freshmen and sophomores.
"Marcus has done so much for this program, and it is great to see him recognized as the first CAA Player of the Year in Tribe basketball history," head coach Tony Shaver said. "He has worked so hard, and I continue to be impressed with how he has handled everything.
"Marcus has been a marked man all year and to put up the numbers he has on a consistent basis is remarkable. I firmly believe he is one of the most efficient players in the country. The most impressive thing to me though is how Marcus has made this team and his teammates better. Winning the CAA regular-season championship as the leader of a young team is a perfect example of that."
Thornton averaged 11.1 points per game as a freshman and started 14 of 32 games. He increased his scoring to 18.8 points per game as a sophomore and improved his shooting and 3-point percentage seven points, to .440 and .435, respectively.
He averaged 18.7 points per game as a junior, playing on a veteran team with 1,000-point career scorers Tim Rusthoven and Brandon Britt. The Tribe won 20 games and fell to Delaware in the CAA championship game.
Fairbank can be reached by phone at 757-247-4637.