SU Women’s Basketball Player Intros: Jayla Thornton

Sunday, Sep 19, 2021 at 12:59 am by Sports Editor

By Stephen Sklar

CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter

This fall marks the start of a new era for the Syracuse Women’s Basketball program. This season is the first since 2006 where Quentin Hillsman will not be the man calling the shots on the sideline. His departure from the program is not the only one worth noting. In the week following SU’s loss to top-seeded Connecticut in the second round of the NCAA tournament, ten of Hillsman’s players entered the transfer portal. In total, 17 players have left the program in the last year.

SU’s wild offseason sticks out even with a nationwide increase in transfers. This year’s roster only features three returning cast members, and Priscilla Williams, a sophomore who started in 19 of the 20 games she played in last year, is the only one that attempted a shot. The new-look Orange has a ton of talented players on this year’s roster, and it is important to get familiar with all the names you might not know.

So, let’s get to know guard, Jayla Thornton:

The grad transfer from Howard blossomed into one of the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference’s superstars throughout her four years with the Bison. In her senior season, she was named the MEAC Player of the Year and set the conference record for all-time three-pointers made. Additionally, she was named to a MEAC All-Conference team in every season except her freshman year.

Among the new faces in the SU locker room, Jayla Thornton is one of the most potent offensive forces, and should her productivity stay on par with the rest of her career, she’ll be one of the team’s most reliable weapons. Thornton was averaging just over 13 points per game as a three-year starter at Howard and in each of those seasons, she was scoring in the 89th percentile or higher for the country.

Acting Head Coach Vonn Read’s high-paced offense is the perfect fit for Thornton’s three-point shooting ability. Granted, the Orange didn’t shoot the three a ton last year and they didn’t shoot it efficiently either, but that’s an anomaly for this program with Read on the sidelines. From the 2014 season to 2019 season, SU was top ten in the country in three-point attempts, and from 2015 to 2018 they ranked no lower than 11th in three-pointers made. Read, who was regarded as a “basketball wizard” by former guard Elemy Colome, was was a driving force behind that stretch of success.

With Howard, a team that typically ranks somewhere in the 200’s nationally when it comes to attempting threes, Thornton was making that her signature move. Here, look at Thornton’s three-point numbers as a starter:


2020-21 2019-20 2018-19
3PM 2.5 2.9 3.1
3PA 7.5 9.1 8.5
%ile 3PM 98th 100th 99th
%ile 3PA 99th 100th 99th
Nat’l rank 3PM 55 17 18
Nat’l rank 3PA 30 5 19


Thornton will get plenty of shots after what happened this offseason. Last year’s top four scorers — Kiara Lewis, Kamilla Cardoso, Tiana Mangakahia and Emily Engstler — found new homes. That nucleus accounted for over half of the team’s scoring last year.

Without last year’s core players standing in the way, Thornton should be one of the first players Read and his staff look to. The Newark, NJ native has registered at least a 23% usage rate every year at Howard, never falling below the 76th percentile in that category. Read is going to need players that are comfortable in high-usage roles and Thornton has been a high-usage player her whole life.

Looking forward to the future of Syracuse Women’s Basketball is a refreshing change of pace from the controversy that has clogged the offseason narrative. Regardless of the offseason departures, this team is still built to be competitive. Jayla Thornton is a complete offensive weapon and finds herself in an offense that compliments her skillset very well. Other intangibles like her experience and disciplined approach are added bonuses for a program looking to rebuild its culture. Look for Thornton to make a significant impact as early as Game 1.

The Orange begin its 2021 campaign at home on November 10th, again Monmouth.

@stephenasklar |