For a one-year player at Ohio State who averaged just 17.9 minutes, 6.5 points and 5.1 rebounds while struggling with foul trouble, it came as a surprise to some when then-redshirt sophomore Trevor Thompson elected to test the NBA draft.
Under new NCAA guidelines that allow a player to go through the entire draft process with the ability to return to school without penalty, Thompson returned to OSU in May firmly withdrawing from the draft. On Wednesday, Thompson spoke to the media in the Schottenstein Center about what he learned during his experience.
“It definitely taught me a lot about the necessary work you need to put in,” Thompson said. “I went against a lot of quality competition. I got a lot of good feedback. That was the main goal going through all of this stuff.”
Thompson is from Indianapolis where he worked out in front of NBA teams. He participated in drills with National Player of the Year, and former Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine, former Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell and former Wichita State guard Fred Van Vleet among others. Valentine was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the first round while Ferrell and Van Vleet are playing in NBA summer leagues.
For Thompson, he said it was difficult not getting an invite to the NBA combine, but he knew that was a possibility.
However, he didn’t come away empty-handed. Thompson received constructive feedback on the aspects of his game that he will need to realize his dream of being in the NBA. Teams told him that he needs to assert himself as a “dominating force” on both ends of the floor and quit committing senseless fouls that limit his time on the floor.
With center Daniel Giddens’ transfer to Alabama, Thompson is the only OSU big man with considerable playing time. Center David Bell is buried on the roster with freshman Micah Potter and Derek Funderburke fitting in at the five and the four position. For Thompson to achieve 30-plus minutes per game, his mental toughness will need to improve, and according to him, that was a major step forward in his development as a player.
“I really feel like (the workouts) helped my game tenfold and really helped me mentally because I feel like that was the biggest thing aside from basketball, just the mental aspect of everything that goes into the amount of work and the intensity,” he said. “It definitely helped me with getting in shape and getting my mind right and getting my body right.”
And it’s not like Thompson isn’t getting the same coaching at OSU that he received during the draft workouts. Coach Thad Matta has a remarkable track record of producing NBA players, but assistant coach Chris Jent is now on the staff with plenty of NBA experience both as a coach and briefly as a player. He has coached for five different teams with notable players that include LeBron James from 2006-2011.
Thompson said that Jent’s presence on the sidelines is a difference maker for him, personally, and the team.
“He’s really helped a lot so far from him being here,” Thompson said about Jent. “Just his attention to detail, his ability to see things and being able to break it down to you … I think he’s brilliant. I’m really, really glad he came back.”
Last season’s 21-14 record with a NIT second-round exit was one of the worst seasons for OSU basketball in recent history. It has been three straight seasons of mediocrity for the program, and the impatience from Buckeye Nation continues to grow.
After sitting out his first season at OSU after transferring from Virginia Tech, Thompson’s first season on the court seems to be one that he took personally. With Jent and Greg Oden, who is now a team manager, now on staff — who were on two of the most successful teams in program history — Thompson said that the 2016-17 edition of OSU basketball needs to take the team to that level once again.
“The previous guys who played for this program worked too hard, they’ve put too much into it, too much dedication and they built this program. It’s disrespectful when we don’t hold par to what they’ve done,” Thompson said. “I feel like that personally because knowing what they’ve done with elite eights, final fours and stuff like that and then not reaching that potential leaves a sour taste in my mouth.”
Ohio State opens the season at Navy at 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 11.