Happy Sunday, Hoos! With 26 days remaining until Virginia tips at UNC-Greensboro, we take a look at Darius Thompson.
When Darius Thompson announced his intention to transfer to Virginia following the 2013-14 season, Wahoo fans were excited. As a freshman at Tennessee Thompson averaged just 16 minutes per game, but led the team in steals and finished a close second in assists. He started 10 times, mostly in the heart of the SEC season.
After sitting for a year, Thompson was expected to help replace some of what Justin Anderson brought to the table. His calling card is athleticism. He’s a high-flyer who gets out in transition and can finish above the rim. He was also seen as a tenacious defender with quick hands who could help shut down opposing PGs.
As the season opened, fans wishes were granted. In the opener, Thompson had 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Sadly, that was probably the high point for Thompson. The points and rebounds were all season highs and he had more assists or steals just once each. As the season progressed, Marial Shayok and Devon Hall took more and more of Thompson’s playing time. Up until the ACC season began, Thompson averaged over 25 minutes per game. Once the calendar flipped, he averaged just 13 minutes per game.
One of the knocks on Thompson’s game was his shooting. As a freshman, he shot just 19% from three. At the beginning of last season, Thompson was shooting the ball often and well. He was 2-for-3 in the Hoos’ ACC/BigTen challenge win at Ohio State, and was 2-for-2 in the win over eventual national champion Villanova. For some reason, once the ACC season came around, Thompson stopped shooting. From December 22nd through the ACC Tournament, Thompson was 1-for-14 from downtown. That one make was huge though, as he hit the improbable game winner in Virginia’s furious comeback at Wake Forest.
Thompson’s defensive reputation proved to be a bit misguided. He struggled with the intricacies of the Pack Line defense, which requires all five defenders to be on the same page. At times in the season, it seemed Thompson was reading a different book defensively. Thompson has elite quickness and long arms. He’s good at jumping passing lanes. He’s good at poking the ball away from unsuspecting ball-handlers. That can, however, lead him to gamble for steals, something we all know isn’t part of what the Pack Line is about.
Despite losing Malcolm Brogdon, the Hoos are actually deeper on the perimeter than they were last year. The rest of the rotation returns, plus the Hoos add Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and DeAndre Hunter to the rotation. We likely won’t see more than five players in the usual backcourt rotation. Perrantes, Shayok and Hall are three givens, leaving the other two spots up for grabs.
It will be interesting to see what this means for Thompson. He’s still one of the most athletic players on the team. He’s a capable defender and good ball-handler. And he shot 39% from three last year. If the youngsters need time to develop, Thompson will probably get consistent minutes. As the season progresses, we may see less and less of Thompson as Kyle Guy and company get more minutes.
Player Comparison: Adam Hall
Other Skills: Youth Camp Coaching