Ryan Feldman on Ryan Thompson
PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Ryan Thompson picked a great day to have one of the best games of his career.
The Rider senior is playing this week at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, featuring 64 of the top senior college basketball players in the country. The players are playing in front of dozens of NBA scouts, trying to impress them enough to secure a spot in the upcoming draft.
In Thompson’s first game at Portsmouth on Wednesday, a game in which his team won 114-82, he scored a game-high 37 points on 14-of-20 shooting from the field, 4-for-5 from 3-point range, and 5-for-5 at the free throw line. He also added three rebounds, four assists, four steals, a block and no turnovers.
Not only did Thompson score a lot of points, but it was obvious to everyone in the gym that he was the best player on the court.
He consistently made solid decisions with the ball and took control when his team needed him. He stood out like a gem in a game that included North Carolina’s Marcus Ginyard, Houston’s Aubrey Coleman, Arizona’s Nic Wise, Rutgers’ Hamady Ndiaye, Arkansas’s Michael Washington, Texas A&M’s Bryan Davis, Oklahoma’s Tony Crocker and Wake Forest’s Chas McFarland.
“I didn’t think I was gonna do this well,” Thompson said. “I just wanted to play solid. I wanted to improve my stock, which is probably pretty low right now. I just wanted to have fun and show guys what I can do, and it ended up positive.”
Rider fans saw Thompson drive to the basket and score in transition many times throughout the years, but the most impressive part of Thompson’s performance on Wednesday was how pure his jump shot was.
Almost every single time he had an inch of space, his jumper went through the net from anywhere on the court. And even a few times when he took some low percentage shots, like a fade-away jumper with one foot in the air and a hand in his face in the second half, it still went in. And it’s not like Thompson was only hot for parts of the game. He was shooting as well in the opening minutes as he was in the final minutes.
Before the season, Thompson had a legitimate shot of getting his name called in the NBA Draft if he could prove to be an effective point guard. But with an underwhelming season, Thompson now knows he has to shine in Portsmouth and in NBA team workouts to slide up to the second round of the NBA Draft.
“I hope so,” Thompson said about the notion that his 37-point effort helped his draft stock. “You don’t know what people are looking for, what certain teams are looking for, but if I keep playing solid basketball and keep doing the things I know how to do, you never know what can happen.”
Thompson’s scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage all went down from his junior year to his senior year. Most significantly, he shot 42 percent from the field and 32 percent on 3-pointers as a senior after shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 42 percent on 3-pointers in each of his previous two seasons.
But Thompson proved on Wednesday to be a much improved outside shooter and overall scorer. He had only scored more than 37 points once in his college basketball career — he scored 38 in an overtime loss at Hofstra this season — and had never made 14 field goal attempts in a game (his career high was 11).
While one game doesn’t mean everything, it certainly helps to have such a dominant performance with scouts from every NBA team watching. If they weren’t considering Thompson before Portsmouth, he’s at least now on the minds of every NBA scout. If he can have similar success in his upcoming games tonight and tomorrow night, Thompson could have a legitimate shot at being drafted.
“You can’t just have one good game and all of a sudden let loose and let your guard down the next game,” said Thompson. “I just gotta keep being aggressive, keep being a good teammate, and show them what I can do.”