Race Thompson’s evolution affords one closing season to cement his legacy

When you’ve adopted the profession arc of Race Thompson over his 5 years at Indiana, you will know he is a person of few phrases.

On July 16, 2017, when Thompson introduced his dedication to Indiana, he posted a single black and white image to Instagram. His caption: “Dedicated! Let’s get it!”

On August 13, 2018, after sitting out and redshirting the earlier season, Thompson posted a single image to Instagram together with his index finger press over his lips. His caption: “Gangsters transfer in silence.”

On March 17, 2020, simply days after the Massive Ten Event and NCAA Event have been canceled as a result of Covid-19 pandemic, Thompson posted a single tweet. His caption: “Miss it already.”

And final month, on April 14, together with his future unsure, Thompson posted a single, 56-second video to Twitter. His caption, merely: “Let’s Run It Again!”

For all that Thompson has given to the Hoosiers over the past 5 years, his returning for a sixth season wasn’t a foregone conclusion — or an expectation. He may’ve pursued an expert basketball profession. He may’ve transferred to a faculty nearer to his dwelling in Minnesota. He may’ve determined that he was prepared to maneuver on from basketball altogether and uncover what else awaited him.

However that is not Thompson, who has endedared himself to IU’s fanbase as a lynchpin in Indiana’s beginning lineup.

As a substitute, the 6-foot-8 ahead wasn’t prepared to present all of it up but, particularly not after head coach Mike Woodson, in his first season, helped information the Hoosiers again to the NCAA Event for the primary time in six years. For Thompson, a sixth and closing season is his probability to firmly go away this system in a greater place than he discovered it.

“For him to commit to return again, man, he made Woodson’s day,” Woodson mentioned on The Hoosier Hysterics Podcast. “When he referred to as and mentioned I am returning, that was enormous for me as a result of I do know precisely what I am getting. I am getting management, I am getting a high quality younger man on and off the courtroom.”

On the courtroom, the Hoosiers are getting again an All-Massive Ten Honorable Point out large man who has steadily grown with annually. Within the 2018-19 season, Thompson’s redshirt freshman season, he appeared in simply 9 video games and averaged 0.7 factors and a pair of.1 rebounds. Final season, Thompson’s fifth season, he began all 35 video games for the Hoosiers and averaged 11.1 factors and seven.5 rebounds.

Off the courtroom, the Hoosiers are getting again a two-time — and sure three-time — crew captain who has repeatedly reworked his physique and skillset every offseason, even when nobody else was watching.

“When you concentrate on what Race did for our ball membership this yr, he was like all the pieces to our ball membership and he grew to become higher as a basketball participant,” Woodson mentioned. “You concentrate on a number of the performs he made within the open courtroom with the ball, he made some threes, he was a beast down low, nice inside passer the place he and Trayce performed numerous buddy ball. I imply, from what I watched of race the yr earlier than and to the place he ended up for our ballclub, it is like night time and day.”

Indiana ahead Race Thompson. (Photograph: James Cocherell)

However Thompson’s evolution into arguably among the best frontcourt gamers within the Massive Ten did not observe the conventional improvement monitor of most school basketball gamers.

He handled important accidents, together with a extreme concussion within the 2018-19 season and a facial fracture within the 2020-21 season. He handled redshirting, which has grow to be a little bit of rarity in right now’s switch portal period. He handled three completely different teaching regimes — recruited by Tom Crean, 4 seasons underneath Archie Miller, final season underneath Woodson — the second of which appeared to remove his perimeter recreation and the opposite imploring him to shoot extra three-pointers.

Regardless of all of the hurdles in Thompson’s 5 seasons, although, he hasn’t shied away from any of them. And forward of his closing season of eligibility subsequent fall, Thompson is utilizing his battled-tested management to maintain the Hoosiers on monitor this offseason.

“To be fairly sincere, Race Thompson, who I am elated about him coming again, he hasn’t missed a day,” IU assistant Kenya Hunter mentioned final week on The Hoosier Hysterics Podcast. “Even after we stopped working with our guys final week, he hasn’t missed a day of being in a health club and dealing on his recreation.

“…And so, I do know he is labored — numerous our guys have been within the health club constantly this spring. Like I mentioned, our exercises have been at a distinct degree the place guys have been performing some competitors, however numerous capturing as nicely in ball dealing with and issues like that.”

The capturing facet will probably be music to Hoosier followers’ ears, particularly if gamers corresponding to Thompson proceed to make strides with their three-point capturing.

In highschool, Thompson constantly confirmed off his capturing stroke and flexibility. In his closing prep season, he shot 45.0 % from the 3-point line and was ranked the No. 78 participant within the nation within the 2017 recruiting class, in accordance with 247Sports. Thompson’s mixture of floor-stretching and glass-cleaning made for tantalizing potential.

However as soon as Thompson arrived at Indiana, it was as if his perimeter recreation disappeared for a number of years earlier than making a much-needed, triumphant return. After making an attempt simply 18 whole 3-pointers in his first three seasons, Thompson practically quadrupled that whole final season, making 15-of-55 (27.3 %) of his 3-pointers.

Subsequent fall, he is hoping to showcase an much more refined perimeter recreation.

“Getting photographs up is one thing that he is aware of he has to enhance on,” Hunter mentioned. “It is one thing that he is aware of if he can take it up a notch in that class of being snug with capturing a 3, making a 3, it may elevate his recreation and it may elevate our crew to a different degree as nicely.”

For a participant who has grow to be some of the beloved and dependable Hoosiers in recent times, his sixth and closing season represents a finality of types.

Thompson is the final remaining participant from both of IU’s 2017 and 2018 recruiting class, and his loyalty to Indiana, regardless of this system’s share of complications over time, has gone unwavered.

Although subsequent season will formally mark Thompson’s final — barring unexpected circumstances — in a cream and crimson jersey, his closing legacy at Indiana nonetheless stays to be written.

“It is simply excellent for our ball membership and this college that he is making one other return to remain on board with us,” Woodson mentioned.

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