Race Thompson’s IU return is about extra than simply wins. He needs to ‘present what a real Hoosier is.’

Precisely three-and-a-half months in the past, Race Thompson stood on the heart of Department McCracken courtroom. The group at Simon Skjodt Meeting Corridor fell to a hush because the fifth-year ahead raised a microphone towards his mouth. Tears welled up in his eyes. His voice cracked as he tried to spit out phrases of gratitude and thanks.

Thompson did not know if it might be the final time he ever wore an Indiana jersey, and on his Senior Evening, he spoke as if that could be the fact.

However three-and-a-half months later, Thompson is not taking part in in a European nation. Thompson is not getting ready for the 2022 NBA Draft. Thompson is not shifting into a brand new house on a special faculty campus.

As a substitute, the 6-foot-8 ahead and All-Massive Ten Honorable Point out is again in Bloomington, going by summer season exercises and gearing up for a sixth and closing season with the Hoosiers. His choice to return wasn’t some lengthy, drawn out, dramatic course of, both. As soon as he was assured and comfy together with his selection, he posted a easy, one-minute video to social media with a easy, four-letter caption: “Let’s Run It Again.”

For a majority of school basketball gamers, six years is a very long time to spend at school, not to mention on the similar faculty. Thankfully for IU followers, Thompson is not like a majority of school basketball gamers, and his belief in the one College he is ever recognized is what’s introduced him again for one final season.

“I wish to depart a legacy right here. I believe I’ve set a footprint. And hopefully I can decide a pair extra footprints this coming 12 months,” Thompson mentioned in a Thursday press convention. “And I believe if I hold taking part in the best way I can play, and I play even possibly a bit of bit higher, enhance my recreation, as I’ve yearly, I believe that that may actually present what a real Hoosier is, what it is all about to be a Hoosier.”

Do not get it twisted, although. Thompson nonetheless has his eyes towards the long run and towards his desires of taking part in professionally, even when these desires have not come as rapidly as he would possibly’ve thought.

However that is the place belief is available in to play. It is a symbiotic relationship between himself and IU’s teaching workers — Thompson believing the workers can additional develop him; the workers believing Thompson may also help transfer this system ahead. If Thompson did not really feel snug, returning to Indiana possible would not have been an choice.

Besides, the teaching workers that head coach Mike Woodson has assembled is likely one of the locations the place Thompson mentioned he feels most snug.

“Simply having that relationship that we constructed over this previous 12 months, I actually belief them. I consider in them. They consider in me,” Thompson mentioned. “They’re attempting to make me the very best participant I can turn into, and I imply, that is one of many important causes I got here again. I believe that if I can enhance my recreation the best way they suppose I can, I can go to the place I’ve dreamed of going my entire life.”

Whereas the on-court teaching is clearly a major consider Thompson’s comfortability, there’s additionally the intangible parts that he is discovered alongside the best way.

be a pacesetter. set up a profitable tradition. command a locker room stuffed with teammates. It is all a part of Thompson’s maturation by the years, and at the same time as he enters the upcoming season as Indiana’s undisputed, unflappable captain, he is nonetheless permitting himself to be taught.

“It has been a variety of enjoyable being round (the coaches), coming to observe on daily basis and simply speaking to them, getting higher with them,” Thompson mentioned. “They’re pushing me to be a pacesetter, they usually’re instructing me and instructing me each single day.”

Race Thompson holds again feelings in his Senior Day speech (Photograph: James Cocherell)

Thompson will not must trip alone within the cockpit of IU’s proverbial ship, although. For a program that is returning over 90 % of its manufacturing and expertise from a season in the past, the usually even-keeled Thompson will not have to steer on his personal. He’ll have six different higher classmen to assist set this system’s requirements, together with returning star ahead Trayce Jackson-Davis and senior start line guard Xavier Johnson

“I simply suppose that it comes all the way down to us three simply actually being leaders and displaying them the way it’s carried out,” Thompson mentioned, “as a result of we have carried out it and we’re attempting to be higher. So if we will get these guys, all people else on board with us and actually simply purchase into the entire program and coach Woodson and all our different coaches, I believe we will do one thing particular.”

It is a mentality and tradition that Thompson has tried and hoped to instill since he is grown right into a management position.

Whereas in Thompson’s first 4 seasons the style of success and profitable was usually fleeting, showing for one recreation then vanishing completely, final season was completely different. The Hoosiers lastly heard their identify referred to as on Choice Sunday for the primary time in Thompson’s Indiana profession. They vanquished an NCAA Match drought that had dragged on far too lengthy — since 2016 — for certainly one of faculty basketball’s most historic applications.

It was within the midst of IU’s Massive Ten Match run, which in the end punched the Hoosiers’ ticket to the NCAA Match, that Thompson took a deep breath and let himself be taught once more. About teammates. About camaraderie. About relationships.

Indiana had lastly discovered its recipe for achievement and resurgence, and Thompson wasn’t going to let these elements fall by the wayside this offseason.

“If you do not have a relationship together with your teammates, you do not actually have something,” Thompson mentioned. “So I am actually simply persevering with to get to know them, getting extra snug round them, make them extra snug round all people, round me… make them really feel at house and simply make it like a giant household right here.”

Though the knee-jerk response to Thompson’s return was to instantly ponder IU’s on-court potentialities together with his veteran huge man again within the fold, in the event you take a step again, Thompson’s management is arguably a very powerful asset that is returning.

Whereas, certain, you possible will not discover many higher ‘glue guys’ within the Massive Ten or the nation than Thompson, you’d even be hard-pressed to seek out teammates who look as much as the ‘glue man’ as a lot as Indiana does to Thompson.

And even when Indiana’s captain would not exit this system with the convention or nationwide titles that he would possibly’ve hoped for, it is the style through which he exits that Thompson needs to be most remembered for.

Simply somebody who got here out and gave all of it they’d each time they went and stepped on the courtroom,” Thompson mentioned.

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