With Indiana’s offseason roster changes behind us, we bring back our annual tradition of taking a closer look at the players expected to return to the program.
Next up is power forward Race Thompson, who is training for his fifth year playing with Indiana, and sixth overall including a redshirt 2017-18 season.
THE 2021-22 NUMBERS
The 6-foot-8 Thompson started all 35 games in Mike Woodson’s first year as head coach. He was third on the team averaging 11.1 points, second in rebounding with 7.5 per contest (7.9 in league games), and second in field goal percentage (53.6 percent).
A stat-sheet stuffer for the Hoosiers, Thompson was also third on the team in total assists (50), second in total steals (37), and tied for second in total blocks (24). Thompson shot 42.3 percent from long distance in the last 16 games (11-of-26).
A team captain, he earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (Media) and the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
WHAT WENT WELL
As his numbers suggest, a lot went well for Thompson in his redshirt senior season with the program.
Perhaps most noteworthy was that late-season uptick in efficiency from behind the 3-point arc. Thompson was just 10-of-57 (17.5 percent) from three for his career before those final 16 games.
But it was more than just three-pointers. Thompson’s production improved to career-best levels in points per game, rebounds and steals, while shooting a career-high 53.6 percent from the field including 59.7 percent from 2-point range.
Thompson isn’t likely to emerge as the centerpiece of the program, but as a role player he is highly productive and consistent.
OFFSEASON DEVELOPMENTAL NEEDS
1. Sustained production from three. Thompson proved the doubters wrong in the second half of the 2021-22 season with his shooting from long range. Now the test will be for him to put together a complete campaign on higher volume. It’s no secret that Xavier Johnson and Trayce Jackson-Davis are expected to be the primary weapons on this team, but both are at their best when the paint is open. If teams are forced to respect Thompson from three, it should make everyone around him better.
While his improved shooting was a surprise to some, Thompson came to IU with a stretch-four reputation and a year with Woodson helped him rekindle confidence from beyond-the-arc. Now that he has a foundation to build from, how does he plan to be a factor from the perimeter next season?
Thompson says he has been working on minor tweaks to his pre-shot preparation and shot mechanics this summer, things like having his hands ready, and eliminating “noise” in his shot mechanics to avoid misses to the left or right.
2. Ball handling. Part of being a true threat from the perimeter is having the ability to attack off the bounce to effect how teams close out on catches from beyond-the-arc. Thompson spent his first few years in the program focused more on playing in the post, and his ball-handling development has lagged. If he can develop more complete attacking capabilities with both hands, including change-of-direction with vision off the bounce, it would help not only Indiana this upcoming season, but also Thompson’s professional options.
This developmental need extends to transition as well, where Thompson has been encouraged by Woodson to lead the break from a defensive rebound. He’ll need to develop more open-court shiftiness and capability going left to pose a true threat in that regard.
3. Lead the way.
It feels cliché to say veterans must lead, but Indiana will absolutely need that from its older players to build on a taste of success a season ago. Most of the optimism surrounding the program is based on the return of so many important, veteran pieces.
With freshmen entering the mix and likely also earning meaningful roles, Thompson isn’t overlooking his leadership duties.
“With me, Trayce and Xavier coming back, we’ve got to be leaders,” he said in June. “We’ve got to show the younger guys the ropes, showing them what we did last year, what worked for us, why it worked for us. I think it really comes down to us three being leaders and showing how it’s done.”
Leading is a greater challenge when you are being pushed for playing time by those you are being asked to guide. Through the highs and lows for him individually, Thompson must remain a strong, steady voice in the locker room.
WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE IN 2022-23
After he gave an emotional senior-night speech in March, it seemed we had seen the last of Thompson in an IU uniform.
Now that he is coming back for one more run, what can a successful final year at IU look like for the Minnesota product?
Thompson is being pushed in every direction. Jordan Geronimo is an elite athlete, Malik Reneau is highly-skilled and already has a Big Ten body, and Kaleb Banks, while thinner, has a complete, modern game. You could even argue that Miller Kopp might be best-utilized at the four.
The other side of all that, however, is there are likely many matchups where Thompson could play a small-ball five role to pick up extra minutes. The point in all of this is that Thompson’s 28 minutes per game he played each of the last two years might not hold up. That might not even be advisable. He seemed to wear-down late last year, only averaging 6.6 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting just 38 percent from the field over the last five games.
Thompson’s statistical progression has been stair-step like since he started seeing meaningful minutes. He came back in part to see if he could go up one more rung.
But the stacked roster may force us to dig a bit deeper when it comes to analyzing his numbers, away from per-game numbers and into per-minute and efficiency numbers. If his production rates at least hold up according to those measures and he becomes a better shooter and ball handler on a better team, it will be a successful final run.
- Tamar Bates
- Logan Duncomb
- Anthony Leal
- Trey Galloway
- Jordan Geronimo
- Trayce Jackson-Davis
- Xavier Johnson
- Miller Kopp
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