Precisely three-and-a-half months in the past, Race Thompson stood on the heart of Department McCracken courtroom. 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 might 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 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 school campus.
As a substitute, the 6-foot-8 ahead and All-Huge Ten Honorable Point out is again in Bloomington, going by means of summer time exercises and gearing up for a sixth and remaining 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 comfy 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 school basketball gamers, six years is a very long time to spend in class, not to mention on the similar college. Thankfully for IU followers, Thompson is not like a majority of school basketball gamers, and his belief in the one College he is ever identified is what’s introduced him again for one final season.
“I need to depart a legacy right here. I believe I’ve set a footprint. And hopefully I can choose a pair extra footprints this coming yr,” Thompson mentioned in a Thursday press convention. “And I believe if I hold enjoying the way in which I can play, and I play even perhaps a bit of bit higher, enhance my sport, as I’ve yearly, I believe 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 shortly 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 seemingly would not have been an choice.
Besides, the teaching employees that head coach Mike Woodson has assembled is among the locations the place Thompson mentioned 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 mentioned. “They’re making an attempt to make me one of the best participant I can turn into, and I imply, that is one of many primary causes I got here again. I believe that if I can enhance my sport the way in which they assume 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 elements that he discovered alongside the way in which.
How one can be a pacesetter. How one can set up a successful tradition. How one can command a locker room stuffed with teammates. It is all a part of Thompson’s maturation by means of the years, and whilst he enters the upcoming season as Indiana’s undisputed, unflappable captain, he is nonetheless permitting himself to study.
“It has been a number of enjoyable being round (the coaches), coming to apply each day and simply speaking to them, getting higher with them,” Thompson mentioned. “They’re pushing me to be a pacesetter, they usually’re instructing me and instructing me each single day.”
Thompson will not need to 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 usually 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 start line guard Xavier Johnson
“I simply assume that it comes all the way down to us three simply actually being leaders and exhibiting them the way it’s completed,” Thompson mentioned, “as a result of we have completed it and we’re making an attempt to be higher. So if we will 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 believe 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 position.
Whereas in Thompson’s first 4 seasons the style of success and successful was usually fleeting, showing for one sport then vanishing completely, final season was completely different. The Hoosiers lastly heard their title referred to 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 certainly one of school basketball’s most historic packages.
It was within the midst of IU’s Huge Ten Event run, which finally 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.
“Should you don’t have a relationship together 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 all people, round me … make them really feel at dwelling and simply making it like an enormous household right here. “
Though the knee-jerk response to Thompson’s return was to right away ponder IU’s on-court prospects with its veteran huge man again within the fold, should you take a step again, Thompson’s management is arguably a very powerful asset that is returning.
Whereas, certain, you most likely will not discover many higher ‘glue guys’ within the Huge 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 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 courtroom, ”Thompson mentioned.