Auburn Tigers big man JT Thor is seen by some talent evaluators as one of the most promising young players at the 2021 NBA draft combine.
Since 2008, the only other freshmen with a block percentage above 5.0 percent who attempted at least 5.5 three-pointers per 100 possessions and recorded a free-throw rate above 44.9 percent were lottery picks Jonathan Isaac (2017) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (2018).
Thor, who measured with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and 9-foot-2 standing reach, is one of the biggest risers in recent mock drafts. The prospect recently caught up with HoopsHype to discuss how his game will fare at the next level.
Please note this interview was minorly edited in its transcript for clarity.
What do you think the best parts of your game are and do you feel it resembles anyone in the NBA?
JT Thor: I’d say it’s my versatility, both on defense and offense. Coaches can put me in any situation and I wouldn’t be a burden or a liability. You can just throw me on the court pretty much. I think I can fit with every team. I want to be an All-Star but I’d say some of the names are Jerami Grant and Brandon Ingram. That is the mold for me. But I don’t put myself in one category. I think that my game is very unique.
When you talk to scouts and executives at the combine, what are you going to tell them?
JT: I think I’m going to be one of the best players in the world someday. That’s the confidence that I go in with every day. Ever since I was in high school, I just kept getting better and developing. A few years from now, that is where I see myself. I’m trying to be confident, though, not cocky. But I know that early on, I can do well in catch-and-shoot situations and attacking closeouts and playing with a high motor.
Tell me about what you have done since the college basketball season ended.
Longest Wingspans at the NBA Draft Combine:
Neemias Queta – 7'4
JT Thor – 7'3.25
Jericho Sims – 7'3.25
Charles Bassey – 7'3
Isaiah Mobley – 7'3
Scottie Barnes – 7'2.75
— Derek Murray (@dmurrayNBA) June 22, 2021
JT: I’ve gotten a lot bigger since college. I was 200 pounds during the season but I’m about 210 pounds now. My shot looks way better. I’ve been working with trainers in Miami. We’re doing leg workouts, band workouts, dumbbells, incline work. We’re working in the gym two or three times a day. We’ll do work in the morning. We’ll get a lift in. We’ll come back for a night session. The workout consists of movement shots, attacking off the dribble and off closeouts, it’s a lot of reps. I’ve been working out with Jonathan Kuminga and Tre Mann and Romeo Weems. These are potential NBA players. So it’s like, iron sharpens iron.
You were also able to explain that you are a year younger than people thought. What is the story there?
— THOR (@thorrjt) June 13, 2021
JT: I don’t know who guessed my birthday. I was checking my name on Google and I just thought, who thought I was born in 2001? Who decided to write that? I would try to change it myself because I know my birthday is in 2002. But it would never work. I tweeted it. I put it on Twitter that Google needs to change my birthday. I guess someone finally saw it and changed it. Being one of the youngest players in the draft is a good look for scouts. I feel like I’m one of the best 18-year-olds in the country. But I’m just worried about growth and development.
You moved away from home to pursue basketball at a very young age. What inspired that decision?
JT: It was always a passion for me. I couldn’t get away from it. I wasn’t sure how far I could go with basketball in Alaska. The competitive edge was just different. So when I made the jump, I knew it had to work. Right away, I saw people were competing. Like, really hard. It was just way faster. All of the talent and skill, it was totally different from where I grew up. That made me want to get better, physically and my skills.
What would it mean for Alaska to have two players, you and Daishen Nix, get drafted this year?
If '20 PG Daishien Nix didn't skip college, we'd be hearing a lot more about Alaska hoops. When was the last time ALASKA had 2 high major talents like Nix & JT Thor in the same year? You hear about Alaskan hoopers like every 10 years. Mario Chalmers, Carlos Boozer, Trajan Langdon
— SkinsHoops86 (@SkinsHoops86) January 9, 2021
JT: Basketball is growing and developing in Alaska right now. I think getting drafted could change it a lot. People will see that they can make it, too. I could say we’re paving the way for younger athletes. The dream wouldn’t seem as far away from them as it once was. I’ve played against Daishen Nix all my life. It would be crazy to play against him in the NBA.
How do you think your friends and family describe you when you are not on the court?
JT: I have great character. My friends would say that I’m a class clown. I bring my good mood everywhere. I have positivity everywhere. I don’t cause trouble. I think my friends enjoy my company. I hope they do, anyway. [Laughs] I like watching a lot of Netflix and Hulu when I’m not working out. I’m currently watching Money Heist. Sometimes, I’ll go outside even just to walk. I honestly like to hang out, just do stuff teenagers do.