The Daily Hoosier spent the week down in The Bahamas in connection with IU basketball’s foreign tour and had several opportunities to see the team in action. Since nothing was televised and not everything was public, we are going to go player-by-player in jersey number order to share our thoughts on what we saw and what to expect from Indiana’s 2021-22 roster.
Race Thompson didn’t garner the headlines in The Bahamas, he just competed hard and made winning plays.
In other words, he was Race Thompson.
With a roster full of new faces, of course Indiana fans were most interested in watching and reading about players they haven’t seen before in an IU uniform. That’s understandable. No one on this roster has been with the program longer than Thompson, and thus Hoosier fans feel like they know what to expect from the redshirt senior. Moreover, Thompson has been out of the spotlight during his time at IU, in the shadows of Juwan Morgan and then Trayce Jackson-Davis. Because of that and his proven, reliable strengths at the four, Thompson is taken for granted a bit.
But what Thompson is able to accomplish developmentally this offseason might be as important as any other one factor leading into the 2021-22 campaign. The reason for that is simple — Thompson is really good at a lot of things. He is an efficient scorer in the paint, a tough-minded and versatile defender, and a very capable rebounder. He did all of that in The Bahamas. From an old school power forward perspective, Thompson is in most ways the prototype.
But head coach Mike Woodson isn’t looking to play old school basketball. He needs a power forward who can stretch the floor — the one aspect of Thompson’s game that has yet to consistently surface during his time at IU. Thompson came to Bloomington with a reputation as a skilled four-man who can handle the ball and knock down perimeter shots. While he has appeared to have the green light from 3-point range, it hasn’t been part of his game to his point. Thompson has attempted just 28 threes over the last three seasons, making six of those attempts.
So is he suddenly going to become a lights-out perimeter shooter under Woodson? Time will tell, but his head coach has certainly been pushing him in that direction.
“Coach Woodson wants me to shoot the ball more, so it’s really just me getting more and more confident,” Thompson said after game two. “That’s what Coach Woodson preaches, he wants to give us the confidence to play the way we want to play. He sees me do it in practice, so he says ‘do it in the game.'”
Thompson’s 1-of-3 effort from behind-the-arc in The Bahamas isn’t enough of a sample size to conclude anything. But he didn’t hesitate to take the open shots, didn’t force anything, and he doesn’t have poor mechanics. If 33 percent is his floor in 2021-22, Woodson will probably take that. Thompson needs to be enough of a threat to keep the floor spaced and defenses honest. If he can make close to one a game while making a third or better of his attempts, that will certainly do the trick.
Perhaps it doesn’t mean anything, but I thought it was interesting that Thompson kicked off the scoring for IU in both games, with a left-handed baby hook on Friday and the 3-pointer on Sunday. If nothing else those are signs of both confidence and versatility, and he followed those makes up with two efficient days from the field.
Thompson is just a 62.3 percent free throw shooter during his time at IU, and he got to the line a ton in 2020-21 with 114 attempts. So his conversion rate at the stripe matters more than most. Thompson made all five of his attempts, perhaps another sign of a more confident shooter.
Despite playing more away from the basket, Thompson managed to play 51 minutes without a turnover, a sign of a veteran, and another indicator that Woodson’s system will be a fit. He also illustrated his value as a versatile defender in a switching defense, guarding both the post and perimeter effectively.
When things got more physical in the second game, Thompson shined. He led all rebounders in game two with 13 in 28 minutes. He also chipped in with two steals and was perhaps Indiana’s best player in the second outing, reminding everyone of his immense value to this team.
Thompson looks like he has competition for minutes this year with Miller Kopp and Jordan Geronimo. He started both games in The Bahamas, and he gave us no reason to believe that will change by November. The formula for Thompson to have successful season and maximize his time on the floor seems simple — keep doing what you’ve always done, and start shooting the rock.
RACE THOMPSON’S STATS IN THE BAHAMAS
- Game one: 23 minutes, 8 points, 3-6 FG, 0-1 3FG, 2-2 FT, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 turnovers, 0 blocks, 0 steals
- Game two: 28 minutes, 10 points, 3-5 FG, 1-2 3FG, 3-3 FT, 13 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 turnovers, 0 blocks, 2 steals
- Averages: 25.5 minutes, 9 points, 54.5% FG, 33.3 3 FG, 100% FT, 9 rebounds, .5 assists, 0 turnovers, 0 blocks, 1 steals
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