The Rise of Tristan Thompson: Six Years & Counting
It’s official Cavs fans: Tristan Thompson is for real. The controversial number four pick in last season’s draft has quickly solidified himself into not only an every day starter, but has proven himself worthy of such a high draft pick. Here’s a look back on Tristan’s meteoric rise to the NBA.
Year 1 (2007-08): Tristan, raised in Brampton, ONT (just outside of Toronto), plays his first organized basketball, enrolling at St. Marguerite d’Youville. Tristan quickly shows great promise and after two visits to the U.S. , transfers to St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, NJ. By the end of his sophomore year, Tristan is the highest rated recruit in the nation.
Year 2 (2008-09): Thompson continues to excel at St. Benedict’s, who quickly become one of the top-rated programs in the country. During his 21st game of the season, a nationally televised match against the #1 ranked Mater Dei, Tristan is pulled from the game after a blown play. Coach Don Hurley, known for his in-your-face style, verbally bashes his star player in front of the nation. Tristan later announces his intention to transfer, along with teammate and current San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph.
Joining his new team, unheralded Findlay Prep, weeks before the playoffs, Tristan thrives under his new coach. Thompson and Joseph quickly bond with their new teammates and lead Findlay to both state and national championships, further cementing his place as the top recruit in the nation.
Year 3 (2009-10): Findlay Prep repeats as national champion. Thompson is just the 4th Canadian-born player to be named to the McDonald’s All-American team. He announces on national signing day that he will attend the University of Texas.
Year 4 (2010-11): Tristan establishes himself as one of the top players in the nation, winning the coveted Wayman Tisdale award for the nation’s top freshman. He is also named as honorable mention for the USWBA All-American team and is selected to their Freshman All-American squad.
Tristan also rakes in the Big-12 awards (2nd team Big-12, Freshman of the Year, All-Defense &All-rookie teams) as Texas goes undefeated in the conference before being eliminated in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. Soon after, Thompson announces he will forego his sophomore year and declares for the NBA draft.
Year 5 (2011-2012): Tristan in projected by ESPN to be the 10th pick in the draft, citing offensive worries and size issues as red flags. Undeterred, the Cleveland Cavaliers shock the draft by selecting him with the 4th pick.
As a rookie, Tristan plays sparingly behind veterans Anderson Varejao and Antawn Jamison. Despite limited play time, he I selected to the Rising Stars Challenge (top-9 rookies & sophmores). After an injury to Varejao, Tristan is named the new starting center, averaging 9.3 ppg 7.5 rpg as a starter and scoring in double-figures in 10 of his last 16 games.
Year 6 (2012-2013): Tristan enters camp as the starting power forward, putting up comparable numbers to the end of his rookie year with Varejao playing like an All-Star and Tristan in the supporting role (8.6 ppg 7.6 rpg).
On December 18, Varejao was injured and later declared out for the season with an unrelated medical condition. With no other established big men on the roster, Coach Byron Scott was forced to turn to the 21-year-old forward to anchor his frontcourt. Tristan quickly rose to the challenge.
In the 27 games since the injury, Thompson’s numbers have skyrocketed, averaging a double-double with 14.6 ppg and 10.6 rpg. His 13 double-doubles since December 28th are also the 4th best in the Eastern conference. Much of this can be credited to his new confidence on the offensive end of the court.
“Right now he’s just oozing with confidence,” Coach Scott said. “He has this natural-born leadership in him.”
Scott also noted his emergence as a distributor in the offense, referring to him now as a “hub” in the offense, instead of a “hole.” “He had five assists last night,” Scott said last month. “I’m not sure he had five last year.”
“The game has slowed down so much for him. He understands exactly what’s going on out there. And it will continue to slow down for him,” Scott stated.
Pairing Thompson with reigning Rookie-of-the-Year and current All-Star Kyrie Irving, it is easy to see why the Cavs are a team on the up. As the two continue to grow together, Cleveland will continue to rise. And with a guy as athletic and talented as Tristan, the sky truly is the limit.