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Taurean Thompson rises from role player to needed starter for Syracuse

Taurean Thompson has come a long way since day one of the season.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Syracuse
How good can Taurean Thompson become?
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

He wasn’t the most exciting acquisition this summer, he wasn’t even the most exciting freshman to put on the Orange uniform. However, despite all of the outside noise, Taurean Thompson has created more than a little excitement inside and outside the Carrier Dome this season.

The Syracuse Orange had a busy offseason highlighted by the acquisitions of transfer Andrew White III and freshman Tyus Battle. People had heard of Thompson’s arrival on campus but he wasn’t getting the same hype as the other new players in Orange.

Thompson started the season coming off the bench as Tyler Roberson and Dajuan Coleman took the spotlight from the freshman forward. Thompson was known as a skilled offensive player for his age, but his lack of defensive presence was a key reason for his limited playing time early in the season.

The freshman big man still got a lot of time on the court over the first few weeks, averaging 17 minutes per game. While he was getting time on the floor, Thompson still wasn’t getting the opportunities to show his true abilities. It took until the ninth game of the season for Thompson to finally explode into his role.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia Tech
Defense is a key asset Thompson needs to add to his game.
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

In a much-needed win after a heartbreaking loss to UConn, the Orange blew out Boston University; a game where Thompson was the star the Orange knew he would one day become. The 6-foot-10 forward finished with 22 points and seven rebounds while tallying two blocks as well. Those stats aren’t insane for a star, but no one outside of the Dome saw this coming from the freshman—a sight Syracuse fans loved to see.

Thompson’s offensive ability unquestionably elite for his age. A freshman forward of his size, with his post moves and confident mid-range and three-point shot is unheard of. His ability to dominate the middle of opposing zones has allowed Tyler Lydon to have a field day running the base line too.

It doesn’t stop there. Thompson’s versatility allows him and Lydon to switch roles in that situation, allowing Thompson to score with ease over the smaller defenders down low.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Thompson has come a long way from the beginning of the season, as he can now catch and face with confidence, causing the defense to pick up the ball or drop back in the zone—either way, the defense loses. If they commit to Thompson’s ability to shoot, then he can just look over the defender and find Lydon on the baseline. If they play back, Thompson, with his improved jump-shot, can destroy defenses with ease.

Thompson’s season averages don’t pop out of the page, as he only averages 8.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. However, he’s impressively scoring double figures in half of the Orange’s games this season. For a player who began as a role contributor off the bench, that is an impressive statement.

The big man has had games where he grabs the attention of every fan in the Dome, as he has become a fan favorite when his shot gets going. Thompson still has a lot of room to improve, especially on defense, but the freshman is on track to have himself a nice career in Orange.