It’s always nice watching someone exceed expectations. Syracuse Orange fans knew they were getting a talented prospect in Taurean Thompson, but noise around the big-man’s arrival on campus wasn’t as loud as their other acquisitions. The 6-foot-10 freshman has been given inconsistent minutes, but with the team’s recent struggles, Thompson is getting more opportunities than advertised.
Monday night’s performance showcased Thompson’s most dominant ability: his versatile offensive skillset. Thompson is as crafty as it gets around the rim, using his size and length to place the ball right where it needs to be. Thompson’s offensive prowess doesn’t stop there—the kid can shoot it too.
At first it was just the mid-range, but now Thompson is stretching the floor all the way out to the three-point arc. Thompson has helped this offense succeed by being able to stand outside of the arc, giving the ball handler the ability to finish at the rim or find the big-man open for three. His ability to score from all areas of the floor should give the Orange a much-needed boost going into ACC play — or at least they hope.
With so many capable playmakers on this team, Thompson is going to find himself open more than often against the top teams in the conference. Opposing teams are going to have to key in on big-time players such as Tyler Lydon and Andrew White III, leaving Thompson more than enough opportunities to shock the defense.
Thompson is in a similar situation as Lydon was in last year, playing a role that isn’t focused upon on the scouting report. He’s primed for a breakout stretch as he is finally getting into the groove of the offense, and if he can be in the right spot at the right time he will most certainly see success.
Monday’s performance showcased the freshman’s ability to dominate from the high post and short corner. His ability to catch and face the rim gives him the decision to either pull-up, drive and attack, or find an open teammate in the corner or crashing the rim—Thompson also found himself as the recipient of many passes from the high post leading to easy baskets for himself.
Not all ACC teams use the zone (as Eastern Michigan does), but if Thompson can find the open spots on the floor he’ll be more than a role player come later in the season. Before Lydon went down with an Achilles injury vs. EMU, the two big men showed nice chemistry playing together; the ball moved quicker off the fingertips and players found themselves stepping into uncontested shots.
Obviously what Syracuse has been doing against the top teams hasn’t been working this season. But if Thompson can provide the impact Syracuse has seen from him recently, then maybe the Orange can turn things around as this season continues into league play.