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Thompson 'confident' about being Purdue ready

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Incoming freshman to vie for point guard job

Saturday, April 26, 2014 - 5:40 pm

INDIANAPOLIS -- Before we get to P.J. Thompson and his quest to make freshman point guard impact at Purdue, let's get to a key question:

Who is the better player -- Thompson or his father, LaSalle, a former Indiana All-Star and college player at Indiana State and Ball State?

During Friday night's adidas Spring Classic, after La Salle coached his Spiece Indy Ice team to a victory while P.J. watched at the Fisher's Fieldhouse, the answer came.

“Last summer we played 1-on-1 at Purdue in front of his teammates and I beat him,” LaSalle said with a smile. “But he finally beat me for the first time as (an Indianapolis Brebuef) senior. He's gotten to the point where he's become a handful.”

The Boilers need Thompson to be a handful, and more. Poor decision making and too many turnovers were two huge reasons for this past season's last-place Big Ten finish. Improving those areas will be crucial to a turnaround, and Thompson knows it.

“I feel I'm a good decision maker,” he said. “I feel I can make my teammates better. I know (freshman guard) Kendall (Stephens) and (incoming freshman) Dakota (Mathias). I feel I can feed (center AJ Hammons) and make him better.

“I think we'll have a good team. Ball handling and defensively be able to pick up the guards and make them work, I feel I can help there, as well.”

LaSalle Thompson, who coached his son on the travel ball circuit, agrees.

“No. 1, he will bring a tremendous amount of leadership and a great work ethic. He will bring a selfless approach to the game and that will feed onto his teammates.

“Those two attributes, leadership and selfless play, will be two key components to his game.”

A second key question -- will Thompson be ready right away? The need is there, even with freshman Bryson Scott driven to show he can handle the point guard load.

“I'm confident going in,” Thompson said. “I've talked to coach (Matt) Painter and I know the things to be successful. Playing for my dad helped. I'm confident I can get it done. I have to work hard. This will be a big summer.”

Thompson has always been a scoring point guard. He averaged 24 point as a Brebeuf senior and totaled 1,497 career points. He said he's fine with scoring less, sacrificing more.

“It's whatever the team needs,” he said. “I don't need to score like I did in high school. Just fill my role. That's what I'm looking to do at the next level.”

The 5-10 Thompson said he knows he's far from being a complete player.

“I'll get in the best shape I can. I'll get my body right, work on my ballhandling and my shot. Being a small guard, you have to shoot at a high level to succeed in Big Ten. I'll also work on my speed and quickness.”

Added LaSalle: “As soon as he gets on campus, he'll spend time with the coaches and understand from a film standpoint, being able to study, study the system, learn it, study opponents. He needs to learn as much as he can as soon as he can to help make the adjustment to college quickly.

“Physically, he'll be a in good shape. He's a strong, physical point guard, and he will continue to make strides, but he'll be ready from physical standpoint.”

Painter's teams have been at their best when guards can defend the entire court. LaSalle said his son can do that.

“He's capable of picking up 94 feet. He can cut that floor in half, move the point guard to his weaker hand and keep him out of the paint.”

Making the Indiana All-Star team, as his father once did, is satisfying, the younger Thompson said.

“It is very cool. It's always been a goal of mine. It's the biggest accomplishment as a senior after Mr. Basketball. You get to play with a lot of great players. I'm looking forward to it. I'm proud of it.”

Purdue didn't offer a scholarship until March. Was Thompson worried that it wouldn't come?

“They recruited me the hardest. I wasn't nervous. I had plenty of options, but I wanted to make it the perfect fit. I was able to do that. Being patient was the best thing I could do.

“I knew it was the perfect fit right away. I've known the coaches since I was a freshman. We had that connection. I knew there was a chance I could fight for minutes right away.

“A lot of people can't say they can play for a Big Ten team good enough to compete at a high level right away. That attracted me. It was the way to go for me.”

Thompson understands the Boilers' resolve to get the program back to national relevance after consecutive losing seasons.

“We feel we have the right pieces. We have to play to play together. That was the big thing last year, they didn't play as well together as they could have.

“We're putting last year behind us. If we move forward, do what Coach Painter and the coaching staff say, we should be successful.”