Precisely three-and-a-half months in the past, Race Thompson stood on the heart of Department McCracken court docket. The gang at Simon Skjodt Meeting Corridor fell to a hush because the fifth-year ahead raised a microphone towards his mouth. Tears welled up in his eyes. His voice crackled as he tried to spit out phrases of gratitude and thanks.
Thompson did not know if it could be the final time he ever wore an Indiana jersey, and on his Senior Night time, he spoke as if that is perhaps the fact.
However three-and-a-half months later, Thompson is not taking part in in a European nation. Thompson is not making ready for the 2022 NBA Draft. Thompson is not shifting into a brand new condominium on a distinct faculty campus.
As a substitute, the 6-foot-8 ahead and All-Large Ten Honorable Point out is again in Bloomington, going by summer time exercises and gearing up for a sixth and closing season with the Hoosiers. His determination to return wasn’t some lengthy, drawn out, dramatic course of, both. As soon as he was assured and comfy together with his selection, he posted a easy, one-minute video to social media with a easy, four-letter caption: “Let’s Run It Again.”
For a majority of faculty basketball gamers, six years is a very long time to spend in class, not to mention on the similar college. Luckily for IU followers, Thompson is not like a majority of faculty basketball gamers, and his belief in the one College he is ever recognized is what’s introduced him again for one final season.
“I wish to go away a legacy right here. I feel I’ve set a footprint. And hopefully I can choose a pair extra footprints this coming 12 months,” Thompson mentioned in a Thursday press convention. “And I feel if I maintain taking part in the best way I can play, and I play even perhaps a little bit bit higher, enhance my sport, as I’ve yearly, I feel that that may actually present what a real Hoosier is, what it is all about to be a Hoosier. “
Do not get it twisted, although. Thompson nonetheless has his eyes towards the longer term and towards his desires of taking part in professionally, even when these desires have not come as shortly as he would possibly’ve thought.
However that is the place belief is available in to play. It is a symbiotic relationship between himself and IU’s teaching employees – Thompson believing the employees can additional develop him; the employees believing Thompson may help transfer this system ahead. If Thompson did not really feel snug, returning to Indiana possible would not have been an choice.
Besides, the teaching employees that head coach Mike Woodson has assembled is likely one of the locations the place Thompson mentioned he feels most snug.
“Simply having that relationship that we constructed over this previous 12 months, I actually belief them. I imagine in them. They imagine in me,” Thompson mentioned. “They’re attempting to make me the most effective participant I can develop into, and I imply, that is one of many important causes I got here again. I feel that if I can enhance my sport the best way they suppose I can, I can go to the place I’ve dreamed of going my complete life. “
Whereas the on-court teaching is clearly a big consider Thompson’s comfortability, there are additionally the intangible parts that he discovered alongside the best way.
Find out how to be a pacesetter. Find out how to set up a profitable tradition. Find out how to command a locker room stuffed with teammates. It is all a part of Thompson’s maturation by the years, and at the same time as he enters the upcoming season as Indiana’s undisputed, unflappable captain, he is nonetheless permitting himself to study.
“It has been lots of enjoyable being round (the coaches), coming to observe each day and simply speaking to them, getting higher with them,” Thompson mentioned. “They’re pushing me to be a pacesetter, and so they’re educating me and educating me each single day.”
Thompson will not should experience alone within the cockpit of IU’s proverbial ship, although. For a program that is returning over 90 % of its manufacturing and expertise from a season in the past, the customarily even-keeled Thompson will not have to guide on his personal. He’ll have six different upperclassmen to assist set this system’s requirements, together with returning star ahead Trayce Jackson-Davis and senior place to begin guard Xavier Johnson
“I simply suppose that it comes right down to us three simply actually being leaders and exhibiting them the way it’s performed,” Thompson mentioned, “as a result of we have performed it and we’re attempting to be higher. So if we will get these guys, everyone else on board with us and actually simply purchase into the entire program and coach Woodson and all our different coaches, I feel we will do one thing particular. “
It is a mentality and tradition that Thompson has tried and hoped to instill since he is grown right into a management function.
Whereas in Thompson’s first 4 seasons the style of success and profitable was usually fleeting, showing for one sport then vanishing solely, final season was completely different. The Hoosiers lastly heard their title known as on Choice Sunday for the primary time in Thompson’s Indiana profession. They vanquished an NCAA Match drought that had dragged on far too lengthy – since 2016 – for one in every of faculty basketball’s most historic applications.
It was within the midst of IU’s Large Ten Match run, which finally punched the Hoosiers’ ticket to the NCAA Match, that Thompson took a deep breath and let himself study once more. About teammates. About camaraderie. About relationships.
Indiana had lastly discovered her recipe for achievement and resurgence, and Thompson wasn’t going to let these substances fall by the wayside this offseason.
“In the event you don’t have a relationship along with your teammates, you don’t actually have something,” Thompson mentioned. “So I am actually simply persevering with to get to know them, getting extra snug round them, make them extra snug round everyone, round me … make them really feel at dwelling and simply making it like a giant household right here. “
Though the knee-jerk response to Thompson’s return was to instantly ponder IU’s on-court potentialities with its veteran large man again within the fold, when you take a step again, Thompson’s management is arguably crucial asset that is returning.
Whereas, certain, you in all probability will not discover many higher ‘glue guys’ within the Large Ten or the nation than Thompson, you’d even be hard-pressed to search out teammates who look as much as the ‘glue man’ as a lot as Indiana does to Thompson.
And even when Indiana’s captain would not exit this system with the convention or nationwide titles that he would possibly’ve hoped for, it is the style through which he exits that Thompson desires to be most remembered for.
“Simply somebody who got here out and gave all of it they’d each time they went and stepped on the court docket, ”Thompson mentioned.