Credit - IU Athletics

IU Basketball Annual Review Series: Three Things for Race Thompson’s 2020-21 Season

Nine Indiana basketball players that saw the floor during the season will be back for the 2020-21 campaign as of this writing. 

While formal practices have concluded, the work never stops for high major college basketball players.  Growth and development happens in the offseason, in individual workouts and permitted organized team activities.

At the end of each season the coaches sit down and have one-on-one meetings with the players.  If you could talk to each of the nine returning players about their 2019-20 season and what they need to improve going forward, what would you say? 

We play Archie Miller for a day and give it a shot with the “Annual Review” series.


Race Thompson

Quick 2019-20 Recap:

Race Thompson emerged during Big Ten play and became a valuable contributor with a significant role.  His per game numbers (3.7 points, 3.9 rebounds) don’t stand out, but a more careful examination highlights the value Thompson delivered in 2019-20 as a redshirt sophomore.

On a per-40 minute basis, Thompson averaged 10.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.9 blocks per game.

Perhaps more revealing is an examination of Thompson’s per possession numbers, where you find that he was first or second on the team in several categories.  Maybe more than anything else, Thompson brought physicality and toughness to a team that needed someone to step up and take on that role.

The Daily Hoosier Report Card

Race Thompson (A-) The most improved player on the team.  Not my words, that was Archie Miller towards the end of the season.  Thompson gave IU a completely different look with more toughness and effort.  He has a unique nose for the ball and he does a lot of things that both appear, and don’t appear, on a stat sheet.  Thompson had the best defensive rebounding and steal rate on the team, and the second best offensive rebounding and block rate.


“Race is physical. He puts his body out there. He defensive rebounds, he walls up, he offensive rebounds. You’re starting to see him in the post get a little bit more confidence with a couple of back-to-the-basket moves.

Race is not afraid. He’s not a young kid. He’s been here three years.

If you look at our wins here recently he’s played a big role because the physicality in our league is above, like, any other league in the country. There’s not another league in college basketball that plays the league as physical as this.

You need guys that are willing to stick their nose in there and do it. And that’s what Race gives us.”

— Archie Miller after a Feb. 23 win over Penn State

Credit – IU Athletics

Primary Developmental Needs:

1. Expand the offensive game.

The plan going into the 2019-20 season was for Thompson to become more of a threat from behind the arc, but that never materialized.

Thompson made 3-of-10 attempts from long range and passed up open looks most of the time.  While he brings plenty of positives with him onto the floor, Thompson would be nearly impossible to take out of the game if he became a serious threat from distance.  The shot mechanics look sound — it is just a matter of confidence and a green light from Miller.

A floor spacing stretch four would give IU big men Trayce Jackson-Davis and Joey Brunk much more room to operate, and it would free up dribble drive opportunities for the backcourt.

2.  Finish better in traffic.

Thompson shot 46.3 percent from the field on the season, which isn’t bad, but most of those shots were from point blank range.

In his last four games Thompson was just 4-of-16 on his two-point attempts.  Over the course of the season he showed more confidence playing with his back to the basket and a repertoire of post moves emerged.

But when it comes to scoring on the move, whether it be cuts or in transition, Thompson still has plenty of work left to become a successful finisher against Big Ten size and strength.

Thompson missed the better part of two full seasons, and didn’t play significant minutes in 2019-20 until February.  He still might be adjusting to the speed of the game.  Fortunately the Minnesota native still has two full years to figure it out.

3. Become a lock-down defender.

Thompson is already solid on the defensive end, and what I like about his game is that he can guard multiple positions effectively.  We’ve seen the 6-foot-8 and 235 pound Thompson have success against anyone from Ethan Happ to Lamar Stevens.

But there is a next level, and let’s face it, Thompson needs to supplant a better defender, Justin Smith, in order to get more playing time.

Thompson isn’t as athletic as Smith, so if he wants to defend at that level he’ll have to do it by being more fundamental along with something else he knows well — more toughness.

What Success Looks Like in 2020-21

Thompson’s last nine games provide a preview of what we might be able to expect next season.  In those games Thompson played 19.5 minutes and averaged 5.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, .9 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.

With more offensive efficiency Thompson could average 6 to 8 points and 6 rebounds along with a block and a steal per game.  If he can do that while making strides on the defensive end, Thompson will be a major factor in IU’s rotation.  He could even end up starting if he takes an even greater jump.


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