Race Thompson’s IU return is about extra than simply wins. He desires to ‘present what a real Hoosier is.’

Precisely three-and-a-half months in the past, Race Thompson stood on the middle 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 taking part in in a European nation. Thompson is not making ready for the 2022 NBA Draft. Thompson is not shifting into a brand new condominium on a special faculty campus.

As an alternative, the 6-foot-8 ahead and All-Huge Ten Honorable Point out is again in Bloomington, going by summer season exercises and gearing up for a sixth and remaining season with the Hoosiers. His resolution to return wasn’t some lengthy, drawn out, dramatic course of, both. As soon as he was assured and relaxed along 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 faculty. Happily 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 believe I’ve set a footprint. And hopefully I can choose a pair extra footprints this coming yr,” Thompson stated in a Thursday press convention. “And I believe if I preserve taking part in the best way I can play, and I play even perhaps just a little bit higher, enhance my recreation, as I’ve yearly, I believe that that may 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 long run and towards his desires of taking part in professionally, even when these desires have not come as rapidly as he would possibly’ve thought.

However that is the place belief is available in to play. It is a symbiotic relationship between himself and IU’s teaching workers – Thompson believing the workers can additional develop him; the workers believing Thompson will help transfer this system ahead. If Thompson did not really feel snug, returning to Indiana possible would not have been an possibility.

Besides, the teaching workers that head coach Mike Woodson has assembled is among 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 perfect participant I can turn into, and I imply, that is one of many principal causes I got here again. I believe that if I can enhance my recreation the best way 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 realized alongside the best way.

How one can be a pacesetter. How one can set up a profitable tradition. How one can command a locker room filled with teammates. It is all a part of Thompson’s maturation by 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 on daily basis and simply speaking to them, getting higher with them,” Thompson stated. “They’re pushing me to be a pacesetter, and so they’re instructing me and instructing me each single day.”

Race Thompson holds again feelings in his Senior Day speech (Picture: James Cocherell)

Thompson will not should trip alone within the cockpit of IU’s proverbial ship, although. For a program that is returning over 90 p.c 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 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 achieved,” Thompson stated, “as a result of we have achieved 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 believe 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 profitable was typically fleeting, showing for one recreation then vanishing fully, final season was totally 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 considered one of faculty basketball’s most historic applications.

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 achievement and resurgence, and Thompson wasn’t going to let these components fall by the wayside this offseason.

“When you don’t have a relationship along 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 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, when you take a step again, Thompson’s management is arguably an important 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 would possibly’ve hoped for, it is the way through which he exits that Thompson desires 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.

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