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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- At times, Sam Thompson may seem like a forgotten member of the Ohio State basketball team, which is ironic, because there may not be a player on the Buckeyes' roster more capable of creating memorable moments.
Averaging just 10.6 minutes per game in his freshman season, the 6-foot-7 forward still managed to fill up a highlight reel's worth of plays, routinely making the Sportscenter Top 10 with dunks and blocks from all angles. Yet on a roster that returns three starters- including the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in Aaron Craft and a preseason All-American in Deshuan Thomas- Thompson often finds himself as the odd man out when analysts and fans alike discuss the prospects of the reigning Big Ten champs.
That may all change once Ohio State's season starts this Friday, and for reasons more than just Thompson's highlights.
In hopes to become a more complete player and fitting into coach Thad Matta's offense with more than just dunks, the Chicago native spent the offseason reinventing his offensive game, an effort that started with Thompson attempting to improve his jump shot.
"I wanted to really refine my entire offensive game, but mainly my jump shot," Thompson said. "That was one of the biggest flaws in my game last year, so it's really been my main focus this summer."
If increasing his field goal percentage from the 49.3 success rate that he shot last season is what Thompson set out to do, it's hard to imagine him finding a better mentor than OSU assistant coach Chris Jent. The former Cleveland Cavaliers assistant has been credited with improving the jumper of NBA superstar LeBron James, something which weighed heavily on the the now sophomore forward's mind as he worked with the second-year Buckeyes' assistant over the summer.
"When you're working out with him, it's just in the back of your mind, knowing that this is the best basketball player in the world's, essentially, personal trainer, early on in his NBA career," Thompson said. "That's definitely something to pay attention to."
While fans will have to wait until at least Friday to make their own assessments of Thompson's new jump shot, he's seen evidence already that his work with Jent this offseason has paid off.
"It's coming along well. It's coming along very well," Thompson said of his jumper. "I've been shooting the ball well, really knocking down shots."
Matta admitted that he wanted Thompson to improve his offensive game over the offseason, and in doing so, he believes he received a more mature player, both on and off of the court, since the Buckeyes' practices opened up a month ago.
"I think Sam's skill set offensively was probably one of the things that we talked about honing in on," Matta said. "You see this all the time when a light goes on in a young man's head, and I feel like it definitely went on for Sam and he took his offseason very, very serious, which has made him a much better basketball player, and that is great for our team."
How Matta plans to use the versatile high flyer remains to be seen, although if how he was used in the Buckeyes' exhibition game with Walsh was any indication, he'll likely be OSU's sixth man to at least start the season. Thompson played well in his unofficial debut in that role, scoring 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting, and while he admitted to getting frustrated at times last year with inconsistent playing time, the now wiser Thompson is just fine with coming off the bench, so long as it means the Buckeyes are winning.
"We ended up having a great year, winning a lot of games, so my frustration last year really doesn't matter," Thompson said. "I definitely think I'm more mature."
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