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11 Days to Purdue Basketball: P. J. Thompson

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Does the little man have anything left to prove?

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

P. J. Thompson is one of those players. Despite being only a Junior, it already seems like he’s been around forever. The sophomore improved more than any player on the Purdue roster last year, and had a top five offensive efficiency season in the country. He set a school record last year for assist to turnover ratio while raising his 3 point shooting from 28% his freshman year to 41% his sophomore year. If his career were to end right now, he’d lead Purdue all time in assists to turnovers. He’s a model student and citizen, and a vocal leader on the court.

So why is it Purdue fans want so much more from him?

P. J. Thompson - Jr

Indianapolis, IN

5’10”, 185 lbs

Point Guard

2016-17 Project: Starter at Point Guard

Not to keep making height jokes, but the conceived problem with Thompson has always been about his ceiling. He’s not a great athlete. He survives on quickness and guile, by working his ass off, and being smart and in the right spot. That’s why what he did last year was so remarkable. Statistically speaking, he had about as good of a season as he was capable of having. His ability to make shots from deep, a skill he didn’t have his freshman year, was a main reason our offense survived at all last year. We couldn’t have afforded another non-shooter to take up minutes.

Thompson is the rare care of someone maximizing their strength while minimizing their weaknesses. That’s why it seems like he’s been at Purdue longer than he has. He cut back on turnovers, learned to shoot off the dribble and as a catch and shoot, and he kept the ball moving while playing strong defense. But still, it’s almost easier to see what he doesn’t do well.

He’s not someone that’s going to create many shots for himself or others. He can’t get to the hoop consistently. He’s not going to be a monster in the fast break. There’s always more that you want from your point guard. The highlight plays and stupendous highs that get you drafted and talked about. That will never be Thompson’s game. Instead, he will do everything right. He will play his ass off for every minute he’s in the game. He will stretch the floor. He will make the simple pass that leads to someone else’s high light.

He’ll play forty minutes or he’ll play four. That’s Thompson. A kid with all the intangibles, who has turned himself into an All-Conference type player in just two years despite a lack of the elite athleticism that so many guards in the league has. This year, Purdue brings in Carsen Edwards and Spike Albrecht. It appears like there’s a log jam at guard now with Cline and Mathias still around, bombing away from deep.

Here’s my prediction: Thompson will play less, will have the ball less, and he’ll do more. That’s what kids like P. J. do. They sacrifice. They mold themselves into what the team needs, and this team aligns better with his skills than last years. P. J. has continues his onslaught of 3 pointers this off-season. He looks more confident than ever from deep, firing it up quickly on or off the dribble. He won’t need to control the offense in the same way he had to last year. Instead, he’ll be able to pick his spots and become more of a knock down shooter.

But don’t get me wrong. He’s already shown he’s capable of running the show, and don’t be surprised when the seas get choppy this year, they hand the wheel backs to the Junior guard.