Credit - IU Athletics

IU Basketball Exit Interviews: Four Things For Race Thompson’s 2019-20 Season

Only seven players that saw the floor from the 2018-19 Indiana basketball team will be back for the 2019-20 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.

If you could talk to each of the seven returning players about their 2018-19 season and what they need to improve going forward, what would you say? 

We play Archie for a day and give it a shot with “Exit Interviews.”


Quick 2018-19 Recap:

You know the story of Thompson’s season by now — a seemingly never ending wave of injuries and ailments that completely derailed his redshirt freshman campaign.

From a groin injury as the season began, to a severe concussion that took him out for more than three months, to illness, Thompson could never get on track.  The 6-foot-8 forward appeared in just nine games, with his longest stretch of availability from mid-February to mid-March.

Thompson averaged .7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in seven minutes of action per contest.  The Minnesota native shot 40 percent from the field on five attempts and missed all three of his shots from long range.

Primary Developmental Needs:

1. Continue to believe.  It may sound silly, but Thompson’s story is about much more than just a season lost to injury.  A lot of players have suffered through that.

Thompson came to IU as a redshirt freshman, sitting out the 2017-18 season as he developed behind the scenes.

So in essence, the 6-foot-8 Thompson will have been largely away from live game activity for more than two and a half years when he suits up this fall in Bloomington.  That can take a mental toll, and create doubts.

The good news is that Thompson is still just a redshirt sophomore.  He doesn’t have to get it all back in one day.  There will be rust to shake off, and the physical toll of going through a season including all of the games awaits.

More than anything else, Thompson has to put everything behind him and believe that 2018-19 was a fluke and a promising career awaits.

2.  Archie’s meet me in the alley guy?

We’ve been clamoring for tough guys on this roster since day one of the Archie Miller era.  Who was going to play with a little nastiness, and an edge?

Coming into to last year, Miller described Thompson as someone that is “not afraid to mix it up.”

In just his first game back after that concussion, Thompson showed us something when it would have been reasonable to expect nothing.  Playing back in his home state, Thompson produced five rebounds and two blocks in just seven minutes of action while the rest of his team floundered against Minnesota.

Later he played critical minutes and held his ground on the defensive end against Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ in a double overtime win.

This IU team desperately needs more tough guys on the floor.  Thompson might be particularly well suited to take on that role.

Photo Credit – IU Athletics

3. Take it outside  

With a logjam in the post that includes Joey Brunk, Trayce Jackson-Davis and De’Ron Davis, there isn’t likely to be a lot of available minutes for another back-to-the-basket type of player in 2019-20.

Going into to last year Miller said this about Thompson:

“He’s got to shoot the ball, especially from the three-point line at certain times here in his career where that’s going to be his biggest gift is being able to stretch the floor because he’s not really above the rim, so to speak, around the basket,” Miller said.

That is probably even more the case this year.  If Thompson wants to crack the rotation as a regular, the stretch-four spot seems to be his ticket.  He should also be particularly well suited to guard other big ten power forwards, whether they play inside or out.

If Thompson can also show or develop the ability to run the floor, score off the bounce with both hands, and become a strong passer into the post, this could be a long awaited breakout season.

4. Dominate the glass.

The other way for Thompson to stay on the floor is by becoming a dominant rebounder.

The data set is too limited to reach conclusions, but when Thompson was on the floor he was a rebounding force.  His 12.1 rebounds per 40 minutes blew away Justin Smith and De’Ron Davis and were better than Juwan Morgan.

Some guys just have a knack for being in the right spot and hunting down rebounds.  If Thompson can be a strong inside/out player that becomes a dominant rebounder, ultimately becoming a starter isn’t out of the question next year.  At the very least he would make things very uncomfortable for others.

What Success Looks Like in 2019-20

Thompson is an X-factor for the upcoming season, effectively like a new recruit on the roster, but with the benefit of two seasons in Miller’s system.  There should be no learning curve for the X’s and O’s.

As we have laid out, there is clearly an opening for Thompson to see extensive action.  A seven points and five rebounds per game season via 18-20 minutes of action per contest seems like a really good next step here, as Thompson becomes a floor leader and a guy who career is trending towards an even bigger role as an upperclassman

Previous Exit Interviews:

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