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Buckeyes’ Trevor Thompson finding role as inside presence

Thompson has helped fill a void right in the center of the Buckeyes lineup

NCAA Basketball: NC-Asheville at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes frontcourt has been a revolving door of lackluster production and wasted opportunities in the past few years, but junior center Trevor Thompson is looking to make that an after-thought.

For some teams conference play has already started, but the Buckeyes will open the new year on Sunday January 1st at Illinois.

One of the main almost hidden lessons the team learned during the non-conference schedule is that they can rely on their big-men, whether they notice it or not. Though forward Jae’Sean Tate is arguably Ohio State’s best player and main inside scorer this season, it’s Thompson who has found a longing role as a reliable inside presence.

Thompson who came to Columbus during after the 2013-14 season after transferring from Virginia Tech, has slowly reaped the rewards of his transfer decision and so has head coach Thad Matta and his staff. He sat out the 2014-15 season due to the transfer rules, but last season he suited up and became seemingly effective with the minutes given to him (17.9) averaging 6.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.2 block while shooting 52-percent from the field.

During the current 2016-17 campaign, the 7-footer’s numbers have increased in pretty much every category even though he’s only seeing about three more minutes a game. Thompson’s averaging 10.7 points, just over nine rebounds (9.2) and about two blocks (1.8) while shooting 65-percent from the field in just 21.2 minutes of action. He’s also shooting approximately one more free-throw and two more attempted shots.

This is a long overdue occurrence and an sigh of relief for a Buckeye’s team who in the past few seasons has not seen the production it’d like too in regards to an inside presence.

He’s the first Buckeye in almost five seasons to average over 10-plus points and nine rebounds. Thompson’s also the only one who’s done those numbers when adding 1.8 blocks. Just for context let’s take a look back to see how much this actually means in terms of his impact

During the 2015-16 season, the team’s leading rebounders were Keita Bates-Diop and Tate who both averaged 6.4 per-game while Thompson had around five in his Buckeye debut season. The 2014-15 saw a freshman dynamo point guard in D’Angelo Russell lead the team in rebounds at almost six per-game (5.7) while frontcourt players like Tate (five) and then senior 7-footer Amir Williams (4.7) trailed him. The next two seasons before that were no better until we finally get to the 2011-12 season where former All-American center Jared Sullinger averaged 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds as a sophomore - He also averaged a double-double the year before as a freshman.

So, though some of the frontcourt players before him may have averaged more points, what he’s doing has been something missing for years because Thompson’s impact is felt on both ends of the floor, even Sullinger didn’t have his blocks per-game.

Time and time again we’ve seen how once the Big Ten starts, your frontcourt becomes a valuable necessity and if the Buckeyes look to knock off some off the ranked Big Ten opposition then Thompson must become an incorporated focal point.

The big-man has found his niche and remember he’s doing these numbers in just 21 minutes of action, so what could he potentially do with 30? That’s something the Buckeyes should consider especially ahead of the conference slate.