Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tudor's Take: Thompson's time coming

DETROIT — Overlooked in North Carolina's national championship romp and the impressive stats posted by Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington was the encouraging play of junior forward Deon Thompson.

The 6-foot-8 Californian wasn’t particularly impressive in Saturday’s 83-69 semifinal win over Villanova, but his nine early points and aggressive inside defense were important in Monday’s 89-72 title win over Michigan State.

“He made several big plays early that helped them a lot,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “He was very active inside.”

With Carolina’s starting lineup likely to be gutted from graduation and early departures by Lawson and Ellington to the NBA, Thompson will have an instrumental role in next season’s program reloading process.

“I’m looking forward to being a leader, but I know it comes with a lot of responsibility, too,” he said during last week’s Final Four preparations. “I’m going to work on everything about my game this summer.”

There has been minor speculation that Thompson may declare for the NBA Draft and go through team workouts. As a junior, he has nothing to lose on that front. But barring strange developments, he would withdraw before the actual draft and return for the seasoning needed to have a chance at the first round in June of 2010.

The offensive spurts Thompson displayed in Ford Field have to be bright signs to Roy Williams and his staff. He’s not suddenly going to blossom into Hansbrough, but Thompson does have the skills to produce 15-point, 10-rebound per game averages as a senior.

If 6-10 freshman Ed Davis also returns (as expected), the combination of Thompson, Davis, Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Zeller will give the Heels more experienced size than any team in the ACC.

Carolina fans certainly can — and should — hope for another Final Four contender. While that’s a long shot at this point, the program isn’t going to fall far in the ACC and will be a top-20 fixture if the guards are just above-average.

-- Caulton Tudor


Graham said...

I think it's only a longshot if Ellington doesn't come back. If we have Ellington next year, we should be a final four type team again, if Drew can play with a steady hand (ala Frasor in his freshman year) and Strickland and McDonald can provide some slashing drives.

With Thompson, a full year of Zeller, Davis mk 2, and Henson in the post, we could actually have a better post rotation than this year!