More commonly known to fans as Slam Thompson, the skywalking junior from Chicago has made strides so far in his three years in Columbus under Thad Matta. Thompson showed glimpses of offensive firepower this year, scoring 10+ points in his first three games of the year, and totaled 11 double-digits games throughout the season. There were some bouts of inconsistency with Thompson, but that could be attributed to his role changing midway through the year. After spending most of the season coming off the bench, Thompson was inserted in the starting lineup for the Wisconsin game and held that spot for the rest of the season.
2012-13 Season stats: 25.1 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 49.8% FGP, 40.4% 3PP
2013-14 Season stats: 24.7 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 45.0% FGP, 35.5% 3PP
Before the season Adam Woodard took care of our Sam Thompson preview, and this is what he was thinking the Buckeyes would get for Thompson this year:
At 6-7, 200 pounds, Thompson is a swingman Forward that can extend the floor for Ohio State. When Thompson gets in a rhythm, he's exciting to watch. Whether it's shooting a jumper or posterizing some poor, unfortunate big man, Thompson's offensive presence could be the key for the Buckeyes in Thomas' absence. The key to his playing time and production won't be his high-flying GIFs or points per game. Rather, you can bet it will be directly related to his effort on the defensive end.
While Thompson did has his moments of high-flying GIFs, his defense didn't improve statistically, but some of that could be because Ohio State was already playing defense at a pretty high level. Sam's rebounds per game dropped from 3.5 RPG to 2.7. On paper that might be a cause for concern, but as a team Ohio State didn't have much success on the boards. Thompson did average about the same amount of blocks per game, and the same amount of steals as he did in 2012-13, so his defense is steady.
On offense we saw glimpses of what Thompson could give the Buckeyes, but there wasn't very many times when the Buckeyes got into a rhythm so we didn't get to see all of what he could do. Still he had his moments, and some of the dunks that he wowed the crowd did have a carryover effect in helping to spark a Buckeye rally.
Best Games: During the year Thompson had three real standout performances, but only one of those happened during a Buckeye victory. On February 22nd in Columbus against Minnesota, Thompson was 7-11 from the floor, finishing with 19 points and four rebounds in the 68-46 win
In Ohio State's only NCAA Tournament game, Thompson did all he could to will the Buckeyes to a victory, but the effort came up just show. In the loss in Buffalo to Dayton the high-flying junior hit eight of his 11 shots on his way to 18 points.
The third strong performance from Thompson came early in the Big Ten season in East Lansing. In the January 7th overtime lost to Michigan State, Thompson scored 18 points on 7-10 shooting and also corralled eight rebounds.
Worst Games: While Thompson had a number of notable strong performances, he also had a couple games where he was at the opposite end of the spectrum with his ineffectiveness. The first game that comes to mind came at the end of a stretch of five losses in six games for the Buckeyes. Ohio State dropped a 71-70 decision to Penn State in overtime, which would be Penn State's first win in 18 straight games against the Buckeyes. Thompson was barely noticeable on the floor, missing all three shots he took on his way to scoring just a point in 24 minutes.
The other poor performance from Thompson came in another Ohio State loss, this time to Indiana in early March. While the struggles for Ohio State weren't just limited to Thompson, his 1-6 shooting performance in his 33 minutes on the court certainly didn't help the Buckeye cause.
The Skinny: Of course there are the dunks that Thompson has to wow Buckeye fans, but he is turning into a player that can do more than that. Since h/e arrived in Columbus, Thompson has improved his shooting which could be big in creating offense for Ohio State next year. Statistically we saw Thompson's field goal percentage fall from 49.8% to 45.5%, but that can be attributed to him having more confidence in his outside shot and taking more chances.
Defensively the biggest strength that Thompson brings to the Buckeyes is his ability to go up and block anybody's shot. During the 2013-14 season Thompson had three games where he blocked three shots, but also showed he can do work on the boards as well, grabbing eight rebounds in two games. It doesn't hurt either that Thompson had three years of learning the defensive tricks from guys like Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr.
The Prognosis: Much like he did the last month and a half of the season, expect Thompson to handle a starting role when Ohio State tips off the 2014-15 season. Which his athletic ability Ohio State needs him on the floor to electrify not only the team, but also fans with his high-flying plays on the offensive and defensive ends. I would imagine that we'll see Thompson's offensive numbers improve since he'll have the whole offseason to continue to work on his evolving skill set on the offensive end. If Thompson is able to put it all together, the sky is the limit for Thompson on the offensive end, and that's not just because he can jump out of the gym.
I would expect Thompson's defensive numbers to bounce back for a couple reason. First, he should be able to command more minutes on the floor next year with the loss of three starters from this year's squad. Second, there have been some nice additions to Ohio State via transfers, which should help to shore up some of the interior defense and take some of the pressure off of Thompson.
The sad news out of all of this is the realization that we only have one season left of Sam Thompson dunks left in Columbus. Hopefully the Chicago native will give fans plenty of GIF-able material and help the Buckeyes to make a deep run into March Madness. While Thompson would be a prime candidate for the slam dunk contest that is held during Final Four week, be careful what you wish for because that means that Ohio State has already been sent home from the NCAA Tournament.