March 5, 2008

The Longhorns strike big on the East Coast

The Texas Longhorn program scored big nationally on Tuesday with the commitment of top five sophomore Tristan Thompson of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, NJ. With the commitment, the 6-8, 215-pound combo forward becomes the first national prospect to give a verbal to the Longhorns as a sophomore under Rick Barnes.

The verbal from Thompson is another step in the Longhorns becoming a presence nationally on the recruiting scene. Thompson's GrassRoots Canada AAU coach Ro Russell took the time Wednesday to provide a break down of his star pupil's game as well as the visit process and thoughts on the decision to commit to Texas.

Q: What makes Tristan Thompson someone that's considered to be a top five type of prospect in the 2010 class?

A: To begin with, the first thing that Coach Barnes told me after watching Tristan play, as well as other college coaches, is his competitiveness was impressive. He's very competitive. He doesn't mind playing against guys that are four, five and even seven or eight years older than he is. He competes against everyone. That is the first thing. Second is versatility. At 6-8 (without shoes on), he is a really versatile. He can put the ball on the floor, post up, step away from the basket, run the floor, rebound and block shots. He's athletic. He has a 7"1" wing span.

Q: What areas of the game do you feel like he has to improve on as his career moves forward?

A: His jump shot and confidence in the jump shot. This year, his role wasn't to shoot the ball playing on a team that had two very good inside players. Nest year, his role will be to shoot the ball more and put the ball on the floor. At the end of the day, he will be a wing player.

Q: What led to Thompson's decision to commit to Texas this early in the process?

A: A couple of things. He initially got exposed to the Texas program watching T.J. Ford and the Final Four run. After that, he watched Kevin Durant last year and really liked the Texas style of play. He's a Kevin Durant fan. Texas in turn came to his high school, watched him and immediately offered him. He visited unofficially and really liked the campus, the people and really took a liking to Todd Wright. After visiting Texas, he did research on them academically. Tristan visited other schools unofficially, but felt at home at Texas. He was ready to to make a decision and concentrate on academics and developing as a player.

Q: What other schools did he visit unofficially?

A: A few. Duke, Maryland, Syracuse, Connecticut, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Louisville and Villanova. Maybe a couple of others.

Q: Which Texas coach was responsible for Thompson's recruitment?

A: Coach (Rodney) Terry. He did a great job recruiting Tristan. They had really good conversations and did a good job all around.

Q: You have had quite a few talented players come through the GrassRoots program in recent years. Where does Thompson rank among the group?

A: At this stage of the game, he could end up being the best I've ever had as long as continues to work hard, develop, keep the competitiveness. I've never had a player match his level of competitiveness.

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