Thompson finally all the way back

The headaches lasted for a month.

Race Thompson couldn’t play, he couldn’t go to class and, really, he couldn’t do much of anything.

The redshirt freshman forward couldn’t even attend Indiana’s daily workouts in the weeks after he sustained a severe concussion during a collision in practice on Nov. 11. Watching his teammates run up and down the floor in practice made him dizzy, and the din of sneakers squeaking on the hardwood triggered headaches.

It all forced Thompson into the background, where he spent the bulk of his second year on Indiana’s campus waiting for his symptoms to expire.

Now that they have, he’s trying to recoup some of what was lost.

Since returning to the floor on Feb. 16 at Minnesota, Thompson has been making a case to play meaningful minutes during the final weeks of the regular season. It’s a quest that will continue with tonight’s 9 o’clock game against No. 19 Wisconsin at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“Obviously right now, all hands are on deck,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “I think Race will continue to try to help us.”

That’s all Thompson has wanted to do for the better part of a year and a half, redshirting the 2017-18 season with hopes of earning a rotational role on this year’s team.

Projected as the understudy to senior forward Juwan Morgan, Thompson hasn’t been healthy enough to follow through.

Even before the concussion changed the trajectory of his season, Thompson was among the many Hoosiers nursing injuries in early November. He missed both IU’s exhibition against Southern Indiana and its season opener against Chicago State while nursing a groin injury suffered late in the preseason.

Then, two days after making his college debut in a four-minute cameo off the bench against Montana State on Nov. 9, Thompson’s season was placed on pause.

“We’re going to play Marquette, and I got a concussion in practice and I was out up until the Minnesota game,” Thompson said. “… At first I couldn’t even really remember anything. I couldn’t go to school. I had to sit in a dark room. I had a headache for a month. I couldn’t read things up close, because my eyes couldn’t focus on anything. It was definitely something that I struggled with.”

And without Thompson, a 6-foot-8, 228-pound former top-100 prospect, the Hoosiers struggled, too.

Although he’s not an explosive above-the-rim player, Thompson is a versatile and aggressive forward who’s eager to rebound and hunt for loose balls. During his redshirt year, he also demonstrated growth as a shooter, adding to a skill set Miller has been excited to utilize.

“Race is an absolute beast,” junior forward De’Ron Davis said. “Soon as he gets healthy, he’s going to be a big contributor to this team. He’s someone who can come in, give us great minutes, come in and give me and Juwan a break, either one, and he can play with me or Juwan. … Once he’s fully back and healthy, he’s going to be a great contributor.”

Gradually, Thompson is getting there.

In his return game at Minnesota on Feb. 16 — only the second contest of his career — Thompson scored a basket, grabbed five rebounds and recorded two blocks, doing the bulk of his work in garbage time.

He played more meaningful minutes on Friday at Iowa, where he pulled down four rebounds and helped IU hang with the Hawkeyes while Morgan and Davis sat with foul trouble midway through the first half.

“I’ll really do anything I can to win the game,” Thompson said. “I don’t care about points. I don’t care about rebounds. I’ll put my body on the line for my guys, dive on the floor, take a charge; I don’t really care.”

And getting back on the court this season was always part of his plan.

Even while stuck in a dark room, away from his teammates, Thompson’s belief in himself never wavered.

“He’s been the guy who’s looked our staff in the eyes (and said), ‘I’ll be back. I want to be back,'” Miller said. “… I think that attitude he’s had through a frustrating season can be looked upon as a great guide on how to handle adversity. It would’ve been very easy for Race to really just say to himself, ‘It hasn’t been fair for me this year. I’m gonna sit and pack it in and see what happens next year.’ But in his mind, there was never a moment of doubt that he would make it back.”

Now that he’s available again, Thompson wants to maximize these final few weeks of his sophomore season and begin tapping into the potential that’s been there all the while.

“I’m back now,” Thompson said, “and better than ever.”

21 comments

  1. I may be a glutton for punishment, but I sure hope RT can show a bit of a shooting eye for the remainder of the season. Would allow me to play the “what ifs,” game all the way to October.

    1. You know t,
      I don’t quite so locked in on the guy being in that size range. One of the best big men IUBB ever had was 6’8″ and more than a handful for the taller guys. I think it is more the ability the guy brings to the floor than anything else. If memory servers Charles Barkley wasn’t but 6’6″, but you sure didn’t want to tangle with him at the basket.

  2. Yes, Downing was 6’8″…And why are you talking about Downing so much. Why are you heading into my wheelhouse? Stay in your lane, bro.
    You must know that my blogging name was ‘Downings5th'(it’s quite legendary around various Hoosier basketball forums…some of which have gone kaput) for many, many years in these here parts?

    Bill Walton’s final denial into a hoops heaven afterlife to join John Wooden …will be because of his failure to ever acknowledge just how artfully and gracefully Steve Downing thoroughly outplayed the big red head at a Final Four….(putting up 32 points on Walton before removed on a bogus call ultimately stalling a comeback for the ages).

  3. Race could develop a very nice game….but he’ll need to do some very special things on a basketball court to ever near the heart and finesse in the middle exhibited by Steve Downing. Nobody could kiss the turnaround off the glass like Downing. So tender his kisses, the glass would soften upon each successive attempt….”Go ahead…I’m yours. Kiss me in the square, near the square …aside the square. I’ll drop another through the nets…but, please, kiss me first.”

  4. I said very highly talented bigs. IU has physically gotten pushed, moved around and beaten up this year (often the last several actually). Thus, lack of shooting percentage, rebounds, loose balls, established solid physical identity, and when hustling and putting forth effort on defense unable to keep other teams from doing what they want and eventually scoring. It takes its toll over course of season when others have talented physical bigs in higher levels of competition (major conference levels).

    1. t,
      We really don’t know as we have had 3 of most talented bigs out of commission or playing themselves back into shape all year long.

  5. Makes a lot of sense to make RT the sub for JM or Davis through the rest of the season. He seems to be productive in rebounding, blocking shots and put-back baskets, and since our two starting big men tend to get into foul trouble in the first half, given that RT is described as “a beast,” he seems to be the best choice to go in when either of those two guys go to the bench. I believe RT is more valuable in the paint than Fitzner. Let’s not kid ourselves, this season is a lost cause. The team is will struggle to produce a winning season. And IU’s best hope for post season play will be in the NIT. While we’d all like to see IU win every remaining game and create some momentum going into next season, Archie’s going to be in dire need of some big men with game experience next season. As a former top 100 recruit with a great attitude, RT has the potential to be a major contributor for the remainder of his IU career.

    1. You know Po,
      Not that AM is paying any attention to what any of us say, but with the season in dire need of a miracle to salvage anything, why not play as if you had nothing to lose. How about this starting lineup for the remainder of the season: JM, DD, RT, RL, AD/RP. If you go small run JM, RT, RL, AD, RP. Why not? If nothing else we’ll find out some of what we may or may not have missed with RT. If he turns out to be a big contributor, we’ll sure be playing what if all summer long.

      On another note, didn’t have it here, but saw AM had some comments on JH in the radio show. Been a scarcity of info on him due to HIPAA (Yes, whether you all realize it or not, HIPAA is a very nasty nasty law with very big teeth), but just what I can gather, have to feel for the young man. Only guessing and trying to read the tea leaves, but just hoping he can make a full recovery, and maybe resume his career.

      1. I am a retired health care professional. Out of curiosity, what do you see as the ‘nasty’ part of HIPPA? I know they will come down with both feet if someone’s privacy is violated but…I’m okay with that.

        Never affected my practice negatively.

        1. Not sure how long your have been out of circulation, practice wise, but the penalties have been around for quite a few years. Federal criminal prosecution and massive fines. Hopefully, your practice had a good compliance Officer and never had to worry. Seen some healthcare professionals hit hard over everything from record keeping to how soundproof are your patient room walls.

  6. Guess you love initials and hate JS (Justin Smith)…?

    Oddly enough, I think Wisconsin’s style/lineup sets the table for a big night for JS. …Possibly his biggest game of the year. He is very raw at times(and Basically a Crean recruit…though I wouldn’t be surprised to hear an assistant, ..or Chuck Martin, is more responsible for going into Chicago and hooking him into candy stripes. I haven’t given up total hope on JS. If(big “if”) he ever gets his feet/timing right, his shot will be repaired(along with most of his turnovers) and he will be a force. Tremendous upside…..Far too much ‘upside’ than to dismiss him of mention.

    1. H4H,
      In your case love #s too!!!
      Don’t hate JS, just think might be time to try RT and see what he can do. You know sometimes guys niches turn out to be coming off the bench. It’s worth a try, the change of pace might be just exactly what it takes to elevate JS’s game. A lot of athletic ability, but channeling it into something consistently productive at the level needed has proved to be a challenge.

      1. Just wondering…because I saw more pairs of letters hugging each other than in a bowl of alphabet soup…. with no JS.

        Thought maybe you were quietly sending him under the bus as many have with DG.

        Don’t give up on JS. At the beginning of the season I said the season would hinge on his level of demonstrated improvement/development. And the season has suffered because it wasn’t what I was hoping….But you just never know. One day a klutz. Next day looking like Julius Erving.
        Soon as you box these young men in to have hit their ceilings, they explode onto the scene. I certainly don’t pretend to know JS’s final destination to where he takes his game. All the potential in the world is there….

  7. I believe think was referring to the “nasty” legal liability and financial penalties associated with violating a healthcare patient’s privacy. Chet, as a retired health care professional, I’m sure you know more about the risks and penalties associated with violating HIPAA regulations than most people do.

  8. Just saw an article on JH on IndyStar.com. The articled stated, “Hunter is taking medication for a lower leg condition that prompted Miller to use a medical redshirt on Hunter.” That statement, plus the fact that JH had surgery at The Cleveland Clinic suggests that either he had a peripheral circulatory disorder (extremely rare for young men) or Posterior Compartment Syndrome, where the muscle of the lower leg (calf) become too big for the sheath surrounding it. I believe Mary Decker Slaney suffered from that condition and had surgery to remedy it.

    Whatever his condition is, I hope JH makes a full recovery and enjoys a long and healthy basketball career.

    1. Not sure what the condition was, but the Cleveland Clinic’s reputation precedes itself, so it likely was quite serious.

  9. Remember Chris Bosh…? Blood clotting issues. That’s about as damn serious as it gets. Makes me wonder if something similar. Rare condition that carries a ton of risk.

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