It is not every day that a top-100 player out of high school lands in your lap. However, that is what happened when Taurean Thompson elected to withdraw from Syracuse to come and play for Seton Hall.
After sitting out all of last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Thompson is ready to play a large role for the Pirates in 2018-19.
After losing four starters this past offseason, Kevin Willard is hopeful that his new-look Pirates will surprise the nation this year. While his optimism seems to have resonated to his players, other Big East coaches do not share the same level of confidence, as the Pirates were ranked eighth in the 2018 coaches’ poll.
Thompson, though, has high hopes for his first season in South Orange.
“I don’t care about that. I think we’re going to be greater than that,” Thompson said, “We can be top-five. For me, I’m trying to get a ring.”
The forward did not hold back when stating the dynamic attributes that he can bring to the roster this year to help achieve that goal.
“I think I’m pretty versatile. I have a lot to bring to the table,” Thompson said. “A little bit of everything because I shoot threes, dunk and can score anywhere I want.
“I’ve grown in many ways this offseason – off the dribble, post-game, free throws. I’m becoming a consistent player. I think I’m becoming a player that coach can trust on offense and defense.”
Thompson is confident in his own abilities, but it is especially important when his team believes in exactly what he is selling, too.
“What I love about T is that he wants to get better,” Willard said. “He’s working hard to improve. He can obviously shoot the basketball but he’s working to become a better low post scorer. He’s been progressing really well.”
Thompson’s teammates echoed Willard’s comments.
“I love playing with Taurean. That’s a great guy and a great player,” Michael Nzei said. “He gives me that energy just because of the way he plays and he’s a really tough player.
“He always listens. If we’re in the game and I tell him to switch, he’ll tell me that he’s got me. Taurean is never the kind of guy to tell you no. He listens and is willing to do anything to help the team get better.”
Thompson used this past year as motivation to propel him to new heights, as he opened up about how difficult it was to sit back and not be able to help his teammates. Now that he can play, his expectations are set to new heights.
“I’m trying to average a double-double,” Thompson said. “I’m trying to put numbers on the board and be the best person I can be.”
Thompson noted that his adjustment from Syracuse to Seton Hall has been smooth. While Jim Boeheim and Willard are entirely different animals, the transfer is no stranger to tough coaches.
“They’re both different people. Different coaching styles,” Thompson said. “But I played with [Bob] Coach Hurley [at St. Anthony’s] and he’s the toughest of all time. If I can get through him, I can get through anybody.”
Thompson’s full impact remains to be seen, but for now, Willard and his players are excited to see what he can do. No one, however, is more eager for the season opener than Thompson himself.
“I’ve got butterflies,” Thompson said. Been looking forward to this for the whole year.”
Anthony Talarico can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ant_tal.