Race Thompson was shoved in the back during a team workout at the beginning of the summer, and he turned to face the aggressor.
A year ago Logan Duncomb might have been the last person Thompson would have expected to see. Then, Duncomb was the guy the veterans pushed around. But when that was in fact who he saw, Thompson sensed something was different.
There was a new contender for frontcourt playing time in Bloomington, and two-year starter Thompson was up for it.
“I was like ‘alright Logan, here we go,'” Thompson said.
Duncomb arrived at IU in June 2021 with an impressive wingspan, but he was still just barely 18 and in serious need of some strength and muscle mass if he was going to stand a chance at practice against the friendly fire from Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis, let alone the Big Ten.
But Duncomb struggled to make progress over his first year at IU. There was an early suspension, and then a wave of illness that left the Cincinnati product stuck in neutral, and at times, even reverse.
“Last year, every other week he was sick, and he was like 220 pounds. He could just never gain weight,” Jackson-Davis said. “Even in May, he got his tonsils out, and he was like 215.”
In the end, Duncomb saw just 19 minutes of action across nine games as part of the late game clean-up crew. It is reasonable now to conclude he should have been redshirted, but with Michael Durr coming off knee surgery, that wasn’t the plan going in. And now that he is capitalizing on a run of good health, it’s becoming clear the former top-75 4-star might have been able to get more out of his freshman campaign — and perhaps even pass Durr on the depth chart.
Over the four months since that tonsillectomy, Duncomb has finally had that good run without any health issues, and the results have been eye opening.
Everyone, and especially those who have to deal with him in practice every day, is seeing substantial progress. He arrived at IU with a reputation for being a bit bad-tempered on the court. But now, dealing with Duncomb has taken on a new meaning. That push in Thompson’s back was no accident. Duncomb likes to make his presence felt in a variety of ways. And with much more presence to be felt, his teammates are noticing.
“You can see it on the court. He’s smiling, he’s playing hard, he’s talking a little bit of trash,” Thompson said.
At the heart of the change is a transformed body. From outward appearances, Duncomb is more country strong than bodybuilder, but he says he’s added 40 pounds over the last year, with much of it coming over the last few months.
“That was definitely something that I knew I needed to improve on, so from last year to this year I’ve gained like 40 pounds, so just being stronger, and being able to hold my own, I can feel it in practice against guys like Trayce,” Duncomb said.
“Before I could get pushed out some times, not able to really bash in there, but now I can bash in there.”
Flowing curly blond locks and all, the 6-foot-10 Duncomb is bashing away, even on a preseason All-American.
“At the end of the summer he was 245, and I was like ‘what’s going on?'” Jackson-Davis said. “I’m trying to move him back and he’s just holding ground.”
Thompson believes the frustration of a freshman year full of pitfalls, combined with dealing with the likes of him, Jackson-Davis and Durr provided added motivation to get Duncomb where he needed to be physically this year.
“I think it bothered him a little bit, and he just locked in and focused on his body, and he took the weight room and protein shakes and putting on weight serious,” Thompson said.
The transformation brings even more optionality to what was already a promising frontcourt.
In addition to the All-American Jackson-Davis, and the honorable mention All-Big Ten Thompson, Indiana added 5-star recruit Malik Reneau to the mix, and third-year forward Jordan Geronimo continues to ascend. It’s a luxury of length IU hasn’t had in years, and it is benefiting everyone involved.
“It’s been very competitive and I think it’s been helpful for all of us,” Duncomb said.
Duncomb said he still thinks of himself as a center — someone who will do most of his work on the low block on both ends of the floor. That was his strength in high school, and now that he appears to be physically equipped to get it done at this level, it is bolstering Indiana’s rotation, and creating different options for his teammates.
“Logan’s been playing really well,” Jackson-Davis said. “If Race gets in foul trouble, we can trust Logan to come in. I’ll just move over to the four. I’ve done that in practice. I think Logan is going to provide a lot for us this year, he’s been playing really well.
“He’s been playing really hard, running the floor really hard, getting rebounds, making good post moves. If he can just be solid like that, I expect to see him play.”
He still has to prove it when the lights come on, but at least physically, after a year filled with frustration, Duncomb is in fact literally “solid like that.”
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