P.J. Thompson is listed in media guides for the Purdue Boilermakers at 5’10”, 185 pounds. I’m 5’11” and can say from walking past P.J. that 5’10” may be a little generous. Despite his size, Thompson has in many ways been one of the biggest men on campus for the Boilermakers this year in his own quiet, humble way.
Over the past few years, Thompson has taken his fair share of criticism from fans and media alike for not being the type of point guard that some other teams have, such as the Yogi Ferrell or Melo Trimble type of point guard that can create his own shot and dominate the ball. The reality of this Purdue team, however, is that they don’t need that kind of point guard. Thompson, finally on a team that can boast a healthy supply of good guards, orchestrates the offense beautifully.
First off, Thompson is consistent. According to KenPom, P.J. Thompson boasts the 13th best offensive rating in the country at 135.7. In 17 games this year for the Boilers, Thompson has turned the ball over only 12 times. While turnovers still rear their ugly head for Purdue at times, Thompson has protected the ball as well as any one player in the country. With his 62 assists to 12 turnovers after the win over Wisconsin, he maintains his NCAA leading 5.17 assist/turnover ratio.
In his junior year, it now seems like there isn’t any moment that’s too big for Thompson. In the nine games that Purdue has played against high-major Division 1 opponents this season, Thompson averages 9.1 points, 3.4 assists while shooting 59% from the floor and 53% from beyond the three point line. His consistency shooting the basketball has been an overlooked reason that this Purdue team has been so deadly offensively this season.
Defensively, Thompson has been solid for much of the year. When you’re 5’10” and trying to defend some of the other guards in the Big Ten, things can be rough at times. On the perimeter, Purdue has typically thrown multiple defenders at each opposing player, and P.J. has certainly held his own. In some ways, his lack of size can be an advantage defensively, allowing him to really pressure the ball handler. He’s been able to get under the skin of the opposition, as they say.
As the point guard of a top 15-20 team, Thompson has to be a great communicator, and he certainly is. While fellow Boilermaker Caleb Swanigan barks out directions from his vantage point down low, Thompson serves in a similar role on the perimeter. Any coach will tell you that communication is one of the most important keys to any defensive strategy and in that role, Thompson is priceless.
In general, P.J. Thompson is everything that Purdue basketball is all about, rolled up into one 5’10”, 185 pound bulldog of energy and passion. He’s tough both mentally and physically with the attitude that any loose ball belongs to him. The opposing point guard may be bigger or more talented than Thompson in any given game, but he won’t ever be outworked. In West Lafayette, that’s something that the entire fan base can appreciate.