Tristan Thompson Playing beyond his years for Longhorns

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One thing was clear at Madison Square Garden after Thursday and Friday’s 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches v. Cancer – Texas is going to be a scary good team.

The Longhorns boast some of the top recruits in the nation that have seamlessly stepped in and contributed immediately. Mix “diaper dandies” Tristan Thompson – who early in the season is playing well beyond his years– and point guard Corey Joseph with sophomore Jordan Hamilton and Texas might be primed for a deep run in March.

The AP No. 20 team in the nation will go as far as its young guns will take them.

One of the most touted recruits in his class, Thompson dropped 20 points against Illinois Thursday and 11 against No. 5 Pittsburgh Friday. He used his 6 foot 9 inch, 230-pound frame to make mince meat out of Illini senior Mike Davis, beating him to what seemed like every rebound and registering 5 blocks.

He’s a dream post presence. If Joseph feeds Thompson the ball, he can sit back and let him go to work.

Against Pittsburgh Friday, Thompson demonstrated his nose for the rim when Joseph found the forward on the baseline and watched Thompson back-in Pittsburgh’s 250-pound center Casey McGhee into the paint, athletically spin around him and dunk right in his face.

Thompson’s athleticism on defense should make slashing guards shiver. He is averaging close to three blocks a game mostly due to his tremendous patience and attention to his defensive positioning. Thompson had eight blocks in two games during the tournament.

But the most mature part of Thompson’s game is his court demeanor. He looks for the ball down low and expects to score. He appears to believe that he is the most athletic player on the floor even if at times he isn’t. Confidence like that four games in to the season is reserved only for the top tier of freshmen.

Thompson isn’t alone.  While Thompson is averaging 32.8 minutes per game, the most on the team, Joseph is a close second with 32 minutes a game. While Joseph’s offensive numbers are far from staggering, what is so dangerous about this year’s Texas team is they don’t have to be. Joseph can mature into one of the top point guards in college basketball at his own pace. With Thompson and the Longhorn’s leading scorer Hamilton – averaging 24.7 ppg – Joseph should focus on learning how to be a distributor as true point guards are more valuable at the next level.

After a disappointing year last season, Texas should benefit from its new look. Senior Gary Johnson gives head coach Rick Barnes some much needed experience to add to his talented team.

If the Longhorn’s calves play like they did in New York, Texas will climb to the top of the polls and sit there for most of the season.

–Ethan Asofsky

Ethan Asofsky is a beat reporter for the Daily Illini. His profile can be seen here. He can be reached at easofsky@gmail.com

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