There's no denying that the past few days have been some of the best of the Danny Manning era so far at Wake Forest. Not only did the staff go out and land its first 5* recruit in Jaylen Hoard over the weekend, but it also filled the huge 2017-18 void at PF after Mitoglou and Collins' offseason departures. The fix was in the form of Marshall grad transfer Terrence Thompson, a 6'7 PF that averaged 9 and 6 last year and Riley covered extensively earlier in the summer on BSD. The move itself seemed like the perfect fit; Wake needed a veteran big man to eat serious minutes at the 4 and Thompson was looking to move back to his home of NC and play High-Major basketball. On paper, it probably wasn't that hard a sell for Danny Manning, but things often aren't as cut and dry as they should be on the recruiting trail as we all know.
Thompson's addition immediately eases the pressure on the three young big men Manning already had on his roster. While the potentials of Moore, Japhet-Mathias, and Sarr are easily salivating, the reality of the situation is that the trio have combined for just 549 minutes at the college level heading into the season. High-potential, young prospects are fun to have in your locker room as a head coach, but can also handcuff you in games where the inexperience bleeds through a proposed gameplan. Heading into a huge 2017-18 season where the momentum of the program is probably its strongest asset, it pays to minimize those types of growing pains and go with more of a sure thing. That's exactly what the staff picked up in Thompson, who's role will mainly be to grab rebounds and extend plays in a guard-dominant offense led by Crawford, Brown, and Woods. Thompson isn't coming in here to average 15 and 10 next year, but to be honest, he probably doesn't need to if the starting guards are all shooting 40% from 3 and combining for 40+ a game.
There's also a really fun lineup with Crawford, BChill/Mitch, Chaundee and Keyshawn around Thompson that could have an ORating of 125— Whit Harwood (@howieshere) August 28, 2017
Joshua Riddell reached out to me Monday night with a video that in late July you couldn't have paid me enough money to watch. The clip was a 70-minute silent stream of Marshall's 106-104 victory over a brutal North Texas team in March of this year. My initial impulse to throw up at the thought of watching this was overcome with a duty to give you all the 1AM analysis and blurry iPhone recorded gifs you deserve. I have also now permanently banned myself from watching any C-USA regular season basketball games until at least 2022. Actually 2032. But seriously, there was a lot I took away from this game as I watched Terrence Thompson put up 12 and 5 on a warm March night in Huntington, WV. Of course, the sample size is just one game, but it's enough to get at least a ballpark feel for what he'll look like on the court this year. Let me dive into it.
First and foremost, the thing that stood out to me more than anything was Thompson's easy movement and fluidity as a big. He's 6'7 215 lbs, so he runs up and down the court more like a big wing than a natural PF, which is a good thing for a fast-paced offense that Wake is planning to run. His agility will allow him to guard the 3 or 4 if needed, but he could also sit in the 5 as well if Manning wants to go small at times. This versatility could come up huge throughout the season, and is something I'm fairly excited about, even if his defensive numbers were relatively average at Marshall (105.5 DRtg and -1.2 DBPM)
The aspect of this I'm most thrilled about, however, is the fact he moves with a purpose. Particularly on the fast break, time and time again it was Thompson's hustle to be one of the first guys down the court that stood out on the film. It led to multiple huge plays for the Herd in this game, and could be a major asset if we break early after defensive rebounds. See what I mean below:
Exhibit 1: Watch him sprint down the court to get a miss early in the shot clock and put it back up to draw the foul.
Exhibit 2: Here he does the same exact thing, getting down the court and in position to get an offensive rebound before earning a huge And-1. The Devin Thomas "Stare-down Flex" cele is also appreciated.
Exhibit 3: Finally, here's Thompson recognizing there's a huge gap in the paint and potential mismatch option available if he can get the ball on the run. After an inbounds pass, he sprints into position, stops on a dime, and puts it up for an easy two.
Exhibit 4: The hustle continues on the boards too. While he sometimes went up to grab high rebounds a little off balance, he did get this big one to extend the play that eventually led to a momentum shifting And-1. These are the type of plays where Thompson can really become an asset for the Deacs. Giving Brown, Woods, and Crawford multiple opportunities per possession is an outcome that will more times than not lead to 2nd chance points and keep opposing coaches up at night.
Exhibit 5: Apart from the hustle plays, if you took a look at Thompson’s player card, you probably noticed his FT % is fairly below ideal. He shot a cool 62% from the line last season, up 8% from the year prior for the Herd. The numbers remind me a lot of where Devin Thomas was during his sophomore and junior seasons, though the release couldn’t look any more different.
Thompson actually has a fairly decent stroke, and it’s somewhat surprising the statistics didn’t mirror the motion last year. In this game he had a season high 8 FTM on 9 attempts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes the upcoming year in the 65-70% range. Based on the fact that a lot of his points will come low in the post and after offensive rebounds, how he performs at the line will have a fairly big impact on his overall PPG if I had to guess.
Exhibit 6: I thought I’d close the gif party with a fun one. Thompson’s athleticism certainly is something that is exciting for this year, and while I mentioned its defensive advantages, it can also yield some highlight worthy plays on the offensive end as well. In addition to adding high-flyers Olivier Sarr and Melo Eggleston, Thompson should be able to add a poster here or there throughout the season. Look out below.
In conclusion, I can’t stress enough how big of a pickup this was for the staff simply based on depth at the 4 and 5. The 2017-18 roster without Thompson would’ve been unbelivably susceptible to falling apart if Moore, SJM, or Sarr went down with a knock for an extended period of time. While Thompson might not provide the offensive spark of a Collins or the deep threat of a Mitoglou, he provides more than enough in experience, athleticism, and versatility to be a key piece of this year’s team. Welcome to the family, Terrence. The Black and Gold will fit you just fine come November.