Thompson gaining confidence with 3-point shot

The wait was long enough for some to forget.

There were enough mentions of “hard hat” and “lunch pail” surrounding Race Thompson’s game, enough hard-fought rebounds pulled down, to obscure the fact.

But the 3-pointer Thompson hit versus Louisiana Tech ā€” the first of the redshirt sophomore’s career ā€” isn’t some one-off in the 6-foot-8 forward’s repertoire.

A reminder: Thompson shot 45 percent from 3-point distance in his last season at Armstrong High School, better than his 38.5-percent mark from the field overall.

“It’s a piece of my game I’ve always had, I just haven’t had the confidence to shoot it,” Thompson said. “Now that one went down, it’s good to see that.”

As the pieces have started to assemble for Indiana this non-conference season, the draining of Thompson’s first career 3-pointer was an important moment.

After graduating high school a year early and redshirting in 2017-18, a groin injury and a concussion shortened his ’18-19 to just nine games. He was 0-of-3 from deep in his debut season. But after 0-of-1 outings versus Troy and Princeton, IU’s scrappy forward ventured from the paint versus Louisiana Tech and, again, spotted up for an open 3.

He’s now 1-of-6 from 3. It’s uncertain if sinking that shot will remain a prominent part of his role for the Hoosiers going forward. But he’s able to threaten it now, which is an advance.

This offseason, Thompson spent plenty of time working to regain his confidence from behind the arc.

“A lot, a lot, a lot of practice, especially because the line moved back a little bit. It’s a little bit different,” Thompson said. “But I mean, it’s just practice, practice, practice.”

Thompson enjoys taking the 3-point shot. All you have to do is look back at his high school highlights from Armstrong. The first few clips highlight his “hard hat” demeanor, including a steal and a couple of blocks. But then it’s a steady stream of 3s falling in, one after the other.

Deon Richardson, Thompson’s AAU coach for D1 Minnesota, can vouch for his versatility. There were mitigating circumstances, but Richardson is still shocked it took Thompson this long to hit a 3 in college.

“He could hit ’em. I know he can hit them at a high rate,” Richardson said. “Iā€™m hoping the guys at Indiana will let him shoot it more. He can help those guys out, because I know there aren’t a lot of 6-8 guys that can shoot it from deep.”

Thompson certainly has fond memories of the 3-ball. He smiled when asked how often he put them up in high school.

“I shot 3s a lot,” Thompson said. “I made ’em. They were going in, so I could shoot them. Greenlight.”

The return of Thompson’s 3-point shot would round out a game that’s been more than solid on the inside. The Plymouth, Minn., native is tied for second on the Hoosiers with 32 rebounds. He’s hit 11-of-18 from the floor, which would seem like a high percentage if it weren’t for Trayce Jackson-Davis (71.8), Joey Brunk (62.2) and Al Durham (60.8) also hitting better than 60 percent of their shots.

Thompson is one of several front-court pieces that have demonstrated their value early. Jackson-Davis, Indiana’s 2019 Mr. Basketball, has lived up to his billing, averaging 15 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest. Brunk, a grad transfer from Butler, has started alongside the 6-foot-9 freshman, adding a tough, savvy presence in the interior.

Thompson is part of a second wave Archie Miller has at his disposal. The redshirt sophomore has equaled Brunk in rebounds but in 20 fewer minutes of court time.

Jackson-Davis leads IU with 53 boards in 152 minutes. If Thompson’s average production spanned the same court time as Jackson-Davis, he’d have about 49 rebounds.

“We have a great team all around. I think anybody could start any night,” Thompson said. “But I think everybody that’s coming off the bench is perfectly fine with it. I mean, I’m happy with my role, I don’t have no complaints.

“We are just out here trying to win every day for each other.”

Miller believes this team’s strength is in its numbers. While there isn’t necessarily a transcendent star, the Hoosiers have 10 players averaging between about 14 and 29 minutes per contest. Senior forward De’Ron Davis, at 9.2, rounds out the 11 scholarship players.

With depth, especially in the frontcourt, Miller can push his pieces to their physical limits. They can play aggressively, searching for trips to the free throw line. They can also play fast, pushing the tempo for all four quarters.

“No one has to save any energy for later in the game because you can go as hard as you can, because as soon as somebody comes in it’s not a step back for the team,” Thompson said. “Having that depth, you can have De’Ron in there, Joey in there, me in there, and you can go super hard for short spurts of time, and at the end of the game, we can all be fresh and ready to go.”

As the Hoosiers (6-0) face South Dakota State on Saturday, they will be tested on the interior. The Jackrabbits are led by 6-7 junior Douglas Wilson, who produces 17.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest.

It’s a final tuneup versus a mid-major before IU faces Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge next week.

“This game, I just take it like another game,” Thompson said. “No difference if it was Florida State or (South Dakota State) tomorrow. It’s a big game, definitely. We are ready to start playing big-time schools and stuff. But every team we play is good.”

Thompson is focused on playing his role, which, for the most part, is pulling down rebounds and playing physical on the inside.

But don’t be surprised if Thompson, the career 1-of-6 shooter from 3, continues to look for his opportunities from deep.

“Coach Miller preaches that I need to knock down a couple of 3s,” Thompson said. “That’s something we practiced over the summer, something he told me before I even got here. Just sitting out for a long time, not shooting it for a long time in a game, it’s just a little different.”

5 comments

  1. Ladies US Virgin Islands Paradise Jam
    2nd ranked Baylor 77
    17th ranked IU 62
    Difference mainly was shooting both, free throws and field goals (field goal percentage was partially result of Baylor defense and free throw shooting improvement needed by IU). Throughout game it was usually from a 1 to 3 possession game in favor of Baylor.

  2. See? this is how it begins….we have a Men’s Basketball Team that has a lot of……..history……and when they play “teams” like N.D.S. (and others), the commentary loses interest and we start getting updates on what’s happening in the Virgin Islands. I’m not complaining….I turned the radio on and listened….I’m just saying……

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