For Thompson, breakout performance just another day at the office

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Jake Griffith | MUTV

Marshall junior forward Terrence Thompson speaks to the media following the Herd’s 81-69 win over North Carolina Central last Saturday. Thompson recorded his first career double-double, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

When the Marshall men’s basketball team took the court Saturday for their season-opener against North Carolina Central, many were hoping for a win to kick off what should be an exciting season. The Herd did ultimately pull out the win, but nobody could have anticipated who the catalyst behind the victory ended up being.

Terrence Thompson is quiet. He puts his head down, does his job and does not allow the outside world the affect him, something that is the pitfall of many young athletes. His quiet demeanor and willingness to do what is needed to get the win made him an integral part of Dan D’Antoni’s roster last season, helping the Herd rise to the No. 3 spot in conference.

But, after forward James Kelley left via graduation, a hole was left in the middle for the Herd and uncertainty surrounded who could fill it.

On Saturday, Thompson proved he’s more than capable of filling that role. The junior poured in 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, good enough for his first-career double-double. While a momentous occasion for the forward, after the game, though, Thompson put the effort on his teammates, not himself.

“My teammates helped me out a lot,” Thompson said. “It’s a great first win for us, we still have a lot of work to do, but I think I just played my role and did what I was supposed to do.”

Thompson’s 20-point outing is a far cry from his 3.4 points-per game average from last season, showing the strides the biology major has made in the offseason. Despite last season’s low output, the team knew the type of player they were getting when D’Antoni brought him in.

“He’s an athletic big who can swing to the perimeter,” D’Antoni said. “He’s a solid rebounder who can run the floor and score inside and outside the 3-point area. He went for 23 points and 10 rebounds in the national junior college tournament semifinals. We’re looking forward to having him.”

The game D’Antoni referred to was the 2014 NJCAA National Semifinal game. Thompson, a native of North Carolina, joined the Herd for the 2015-16 season as a JUCO transfer from Georgia Highlands College in Rome, GA. Ever the journeyman, Thompson also spent time at fellow-Conference USA school Charlotte during the 2013-14 season, where he redshirted.

Coming in as a transfer, Thompson needed time to fully acclimate to D’Antoni’s system. But, even though his scoring may not have been up to par with his JUCO numbers, teammate Jon Elmore noted that Thompson could still be counted on to make plays.

“When Terrence got here, he was one of those energy guys who really played hard and rebounded and brought some of the things we needed,” Elmore said after Saturday’s game. “But, Terrence knew in the offseason what he needed to do to make a major impact and he’s done it so far. You’ve seen the results, I think he’s only getting better and better.”

Part of how Thompson got better was training. Knowing he had to step up and help fill the void left behind by Kelley, Thompson spent the offseason in the gym and with coaches, learning how to take his game to the next level.

“Last year, I was playing against pretty much two all-conference guys,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t ready yet. So, during the offseason, I knew it was my time to step up. So, I just worked hard, I got with coaches, shooting, working on some offensive move to get better and tonight, I displayed what I’ve been working on all summer.”

As a result, the forward has improved drastically, a difficult feat considering Thompson is coming off a season in which he won the Bob Allen Most Improved Player Award. The “night and day” difference, though, in Thompson’s game, as Elmore put it, was enough to even attract the attention of the opposing head coach, LeVelle Moton.

“I love [Thompson] as a person, but I hate him as a player, he’s just so good,” Moton joked. “I don’t know why he was mad at us. Usually, when a guy does that to you, it’s because you didn’t recruit him or something. We loved Terrence.”

With how quietly Thompson earned his first double-double, had he not been told, D’Antoni may have missed Thompson’s final stat line. Nonetheless, the head coach was proud of the forward’s efforts and the strides he has made.

“Somebody told me he had 20 points and 10 rebounds and I would have told you he had 12 and 8,” D’Antoni said. “He did it quietly and that’s the type of person he is, too. He doesn’t demand attention for himself and he’s very, very effective in what he does.”

As Thompson continues to step up and be a key piece for the Thundering Herd, one thing is for sure: you can count on Terrence Thompson to carry on, quietly getting the job done along the way.

Jake Griffith can be contacted at [email protected]