Precisely three-and-a-half months in the past, Race Thompson stood on the heart of Department McCracken court docket. The group 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 may be the truth.
However three-and-a-half months later, Thompson is not enjoying in a European nation. Thompson is not getting ready for the 2022 NBA Draft. Thompson is not transferring into a brand new house on a special faculty campus.
As a substitute, the 6-foot-8 ahead and All-Massive Ten Honorable Point out is again in Bloomington, going by means of summer season exercises and gearing up for a sixth and last season with the Hoosiers. His choice to return wasn’t some lengthy, drawn out, dramatic course of, both. As soon as he was assured and relaxed together with his alternative, 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 identical 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 identified 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 decide a pair extra footprints this coming yr,” Thompson stated in a Thursday press convention. “And I feel if I preserve enjoying the best way I can play, and I play even possibly a bit bit higher, enhance my sport, as I’ve yearly, I feel that that can 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 goals of enjoying professionally, even when these goals have not come as rapidly as he may’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 will help transfer this system ahead. If Thompson did not really feel snug, returning to Indiana probably would not have been an possibility.
Besides, the teaching employees that head coach Mike Woodson has assembled is without doubt one of the locations the place Thompson stated he feels most snug.
“Simply having that relationship that we constructed over this previous yr, I actually belief them. I imagine in them. They imagine in me,” Thompson stated. “They’re making an attempt to make me the very best participant I can grow to be, and I imply, that is one of many principal causes I got here again. I feel that if I can enhance my sport the best way they assume I can, I can go to the place I’ve dreamed of going my entire life. “
Whereas the on-court teaching is clearly a major think about Thompson’s comfortability, there are additionally the intangible elements that he realized alongside the best way.
How you can be a frontrunner. How you can set up a successful tradition. How you can command a locker room filled with teammates. It is all a part of Thompson’s maturation by means of 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 a whole lot of enjoyable being round (the coaches), coming to observe day by day and simply speaking to them, getting higher with them,” Thompson stated. “They’re pushing me to be a frontrunner, and so they’re instructing me and instructing me each single day.”
Thompson will not need to trip 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 assume that it comes right down to us three simply actually being leaders and displaying them the way it’s performed,” Thompson stated, “as a result of we have performed it and we’re making an attempt to be higher. So if we are able to get these guys, all people else on board with us and actually simply purchase into the entire program and coach Woodson and all our different coaches, I feel we are able to 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 successful was typically fleeting, showing for one sport then vanishing totally, 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 Event 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 Massive Ten Event run, which in the end punched the Hoosiers’ ticket to the NCAA Event, 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 fulfillment and resurgence, and Thompson wasn’t going to let these elements fall by the wayside this offseason.
“In the event you don’t have a relationship together with your teammates, you don’t actually have something,” Thompson stated. “So I am actually simply persevering with to get to know them, getting extra snug round them, make them extra snug round all people, round me … make them really feel at house and simply making it like an enormous household right here. “
Though the knee-jerk response to Thompson’s return was to instantly ponder IU’s on-court prospects with its veteran large man again within the fold, when you take a step again, Thompson’s management is arguably an important asset that is returning.
Whereas, positive, you in all probability will not discover many higher ‘glue guys’ within the Massive 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 does not exit this system with the convention or nationwide titles that he may’ve hoped for, it is the way through which he exits that Thompson needs to be most remembered for.
“Simply somebody who got here out and gave all of it that they had each time they went and stepped on the court docket, ”Thompson stated.