ASHEVIL, NF – Not far from Reis Thompson’s home in Plymouth, Minnesota, there is a steep hill covered with lush green grass and spotted with small patches of dirt from a long tread. In the spring, when the weightlifting rooms closed and the gyms closed due to COVID-1
They started training in the morning shortly after students from all over the country were sent home. Thompson slipped on a weighted vest and dug a pair of new Adidas buttons into the ground during sprints up the hill. They made chains with resistant tapes. They brought a deck of cards, each suit a different exercise, while the number determined the number of repetitions.
Later on Zoom, Thompson worked on handling the ball. He was on the court, working on adding a consistent jump. After his training was over, Thompson went to the track for more. When the gyms opened, he worked on controlling the body and the strength of the core.
On Monday, Indiana head coach Archie Miller called it one of the most impressive off-seasons he has ever seen.
There was Thompson, on the court of Hara Cherokee Center, who made his first double-double of his career with 22 points and 13 rebounds in a 79-58 victory over Providence in the first round of the Maui Invitational. He played 35 minutes, 10 more than his previous career. Each hill paid dividends.
There was Thompson, who was battling injuries in his freshman and sophomore season, finally healthy. There was Thompson, who made his way into the rotation at the end of last season, launching an insulting attack on Indiana. Thompson led Indiana.
“His appearance for me is one of the special things for this off-season and just watching him get a little reward for what he did,” Miller said. “… I’m so happy for him just because of his development over the last eight months, his attitude, his leadership and the way he plays is how he practices every day.”
Of course, it’s important what Thompson did on the court in the summer. But to get a really complete picture of Thompson’s transformation, you need to understand what happened off the court.
On May 25, no more than 20 minutes from Thompson’s home, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by police. Floyd was killed near Cup Foods, a local restaurant in the city. Thompson has been there before.
“This is my home,” Thompson said over the summer. “It hits home.”
As the protests spread across the country, Thompson spoke with passion on call to the Zoom team. He was featured in an IU basketball video promoting racial equality. With a black mask covering his face, Thompson attended peaceful protests. He was walking in crowds chanting “police chase.” During a protest in late May, a semi-truck flew into a closed road, sending many scattered. Thompson helped the others down the side of the highway and over the fence.
With these experiences came maturity and voice. When Indiana players returned to campus in July, Thompson was named off-season champion. When senior Al Durham was asked who had stepped up as a leader, without hesitation, he said Thompson. When the captains were named, Thompson was included.
“I feel he has a purpose for him,” Athletic Performance director Cliff Marshall said over the summer. “It’s almost as if he pushed a switch.”
With all that in mind, consider Thompson’s performance on Monday afternoon. Indiana was already weak in the front field, playing without senior striker Joey Brank, who was dealing with back discomfort. After Indiana’s victory over Tennessee Tech, Miller criticized his team’s ability to bounce. The Husseins needed someone to step up.
It became clear from the opening council that Thompson was that type. He scored the first two points for Indiana, clearing the missed lineup of Armaan Franklin. Then Thompson followed him with a block at the other end.
When Providence went into the extended zone, Thompson moved from side to side down the baseline, showing feathers like a float one after the other. In defensive possession, he did not bite a fake pump. Instead, he walled up, forcing a shot that bounced harmlessly from the top of the tray.
With just under seven minutes left in the half, Thompson signed up for Trace Jackson-Davis, who had just taken his second foul. In the next possession, Thompson cleared another gap for two more points.
All the while, this quiet leadership was evident. Thompson clapped his hands in encouragement. While he waited, he turned his finger, signaling the Husseins to keep up the intensity. He patted first-class security guard Christian Lander on the chest.
“I would just say confidence,” Thompson said after the game. “It’s the main thing. The coach told me before the game to go out there with great confidence and just do what you do. “
Thompson’s dominance continued after half time. A few minutes later, Thompson threw another dive. In the next possession, Thompson powered Durham for a 3-point. A wide smile met both of their faces as they clapped their hands. Durham, who came as part of the same recruitment class as Thompson, has noticed his growth as much as anyone else.
“He’s been through a lot, as everyone knows, since he came here,” Durham said. “Just to see him play a game like this and show you everything we see. When he was healthy and himself, I mean, he had a spectacular game. I am so proud of him. I can’t even put into words how proud I am of him. “
The last call came eight minutes later, when the game was no longer available. Thompson grabbed a Jackson-Davis pass and exploded with both hands, turning the ball back behind his head. He let out a howl so loud he couldn’t be drowned out by the noise of the crowd or even the noise of the bench.
Thompson wanted to let everyone know he was in the building. Once and for all.
(Photo: Maui Invitational)
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