The NBA Draft is here. With players heading off to their respective destinations for pre-draft training, there are still a number of guys putting in that work on campus while finishing up their classwork. Ohio State high flyer Sam Thompson is one of those guys.
Commuting between Impact Basketball in Las Vegas and Columbus to finish up school, Thompson is the epitome of a student-athlete who is working to achieve his dream. Graduating this spring with a finance degree, the Chicago native is putting in double-time to reach his goals. Meeting up in Ohio State’s practice facility at 6:45 a.m. before he took a final exam, we were able to see Sam Thompson’s grind firsthand.
Working out with OSU assistant Jake Diebler (older bro of former second-round pick Jon Diebler), Thompson set out to show that he can do a lot more on the offensive end than his averages of 10 points and 4 rebounds per night showed. The top-50 recruit played both the small and power forward positions at Ohio State, yet defended just about every spot on the floor. In the L, he’s going to be expected to defend the perimeter and knock down open jumpers, something he’s convinced that he will be able to do.
“I think I’m a better offensive player than people give me credit for,” Thompson confidently explained shortly before taking his last final exam as a Buckeye. “I’m a better creator, I was second on the team in points this season, and I can shoot the ball a lot better than I did at the end of the season. I think that I’ve made some big strides offensively and I’m excited to show it off.”
While it will be a few weeks before he shows it off to NBA executives, we were able to see what he was talking about early in the process. Still tuning his shot to become more compact, there was a clear adjustment to shooting the ball at the NBA three point line. Surprisingly enough though, Sam looked more comfortable shooting the ball from NBA and it was evident that this has been a major focus of his training since Ohio State’s season ended.
Not working solely on his three ball, the 6-7 swingman also exhibited a solid one-dribble pull-up. Going both left and right, he showed a tight handle and a J with elevation that will allow him to rise up over the defender when they come flying out to him on the perimeter. No NBA team is expecting Sam Thompson to do work in isolations at the top of the key like James Harden, but along with his J, improving off of the bounce are essential to making his NBA dreams become reality.
“I’m tuning up my jumshot. At times I have a habit of swinging it to the left side of my body, but I need to keep it tight and real compact,” Thompson admitted when asked what he is focusing on before workouts with teams. “The other thing is my handle. I know at the next level I have to be able to put it on the floor to create for myself and my teammates. Those are really the two biggest things.”
After showing his ability to shoot the ball from mid-range off of pin-downs and going to work from the post, Thompson decided to showcase what he’s been known for much of his career: His insane hops. He threw down countless absurd dunks during the drills in which he was attacking the rim, gliding through the air effortlessly and extending above the rim. At the conclusion of the workout, Sam decided to show us a little bit more of why he was a mixtape favorite during his high school days. Closing out the workout, Sam not only got up to touch above the top of the square, but he also kissed the rim. Yes, you read that correctly. Kissed. The. Rim.
In workouts of this nature, you aren’t able to see every facet of a player’s game. The most valuable trait that Sam Thompson will surely bring to an NBA team is his ability to put the clamps on people on the defensive end. With his size and lateral quickness, he is versatile enough to lock down on multiple positions and has shown a willingness to do so on the college level. With defensive stoppers at a premium in the League right now, his potential on that end and expanded range are enough to put him firmly in the second round mix. With NBA workouts getting started, Thompson is ready to show why he should have a spot in the league.
“Right this second, I’m an NBA-caliber defender. I’m long, athletic, and I can really give some guys problems on the defensive end,” he said at the conclusion of his workout. “I’m a better offensive player than people give me credit for and I’m excited to show that, but tomorrow I can come in and help a team on the defensive end. My work ethic will take care of the rest.”
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