The Unmentioned Buckeye: It’s Sam Thompson’s Year to ShinePosted by Max Jakubowski on October 25th, 2013
The Buckeyes have had a rich recent history of scoring forwards over the past five years. Evan Turner, David Lighty and Jared Sullinger are quite a list to go along with DeShaun Thomas last season. This year, it is expected that LaQuinton Ross will become the next high scoring wing for Ohio State. Ross emerged as a scoring threat in last season’s NCAA Tournament, averaging 15 PPG and shooting 44 percent from 3-point range over four games. With the departure of Thomas to the NBA, the offensive load will now fall upon Ross. The always dependable Aaron Craft will give the Buckeyes 10 to 12 points per game and third-year starter Lenzelle Smith Jr. could finally average double figures along with shooting 40% from deep. But the one player getting no attention on the offensive end is junior forward Sam Thompson.
Thompson is your typical college slasher, a player who has great speed and athleticism for his size along with an ability to finish at the rim (in spectacular fashion I might add). He has adapted to new roles in each of his previous two seasons in Columbus. During his freshman year he took the “energy guy” role, which meant providing the team a lift with hustle plays and acrobatic dunks. Last year, Thad Matta inserted Thompson into the starting lineup and he became Ohio State’s top wing defender. His offensive stats were not eye-popping at 7.8 PPG and 3.5 RPG, but he did shoot 40% from three, although on only 57 attempts.
So why can’t Thompson take that next jump in his offensive game? He has certainly shown progression in his college career so far. He came in as a skinny kid from Chicago, and in only a two-year span, he bulked up 30 pounds and has shown he can handle the physical intensity of the Big Ten. Is he going to average 19.8 PPG like Thomas did last year? No. But Thompson can definitely hit the 13 to 15 PPG range this season. Craft and Ross will be involved in a lot of pick-and-roll situations this year, leaving Smith and Thompson wide open on the wings or in the corners. If that help-side defense falls off one of these two players, either can sneak baseline for an easy layup off the dish from Craft, or stay in the corner and enjoy a wide-open look from three.
Thompson has run the former with Craft plenty of times in the past, usually resulting in an alley-oop dunk off the drive. The big improvement the junior must make to hit his potential is to knock down the corner three consistently. A high percentage in limited attempts doesn’t yet make Thompson a major threat from distance. If he can double his attempts this year and shoot anywhere from 36 percent or higher, defenders and coaches alike will have a hard time choosing whether to guard the baseline cut or the corner triple. Thompson has all the physical tools for his position and great talent around him to thrive. It’s up to him to take that next step and make the Buckeyes’ new forward combo of Ross and Thompson one of the most dangerous in the Big Ten.