In the ramp up to the 2008-09 basketball season, I will be profiling key Tar Heels who will likely be major contributors this season. Today’s profile looks at junior PF Deon Thompson.
Weight: 245 lbs
2007-08 Stats: 39 gms, 8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg
Career: 77 gms, 6.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.8 bpg
What Happened Last Season
Deon Thompson came into last season fresh off what I thought was a break out performance on the United State U19 team in the World Championships. It was assumed he would not perform at exactly the same level but there was hope Thompson could become a tremendous compliment to Tyler Hansbrough. That really did not happen and the impression of Thompson by season's end was that he was soft, not a great defender, inconsistent on the board and given to disappear in spurts. In short it was not the kind of season we all hoped he would have. His best game of the season came versus Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament but beyond that Thompson was not given to great games. In one respect it was not necessary for Thompson to be a serious offensive threat last season but where I think we wanted to see more was a stronger defensive effort with more effective rebounding.
Outlook For This Season
It is really quite simple for Thompson, he needs to play with toughness and agression on the boards but more importantly on defense. Depending on how long Hansbrough ends up sitting, which could be as many as three games to start the season, Thompson could be the primary interior scorer initially. Going on the assumption Thompson will be playing beside the reigning POY, his focus should be on how well he plays defense. UNC needs more shot blockers and if Thompson can improve this area it will help the overall defensive posture for the team.
All that being said, Thompson is probably the least secure starter on the team. By all accounts, Tyler Zeller might be breathing down his neck for the power forward slot despite being a seven footer. I imagine Thompson is dealing with a thinner margin of error than maybe he saw last season when Alex Stepheson was the primary frontline sub. If Roy can get more from Zeller than Thompson might lose some minutes. Still, he is experienced and I think ready to resolve some of the toughness/aggression questions from last season.
The biggest fear is another season of soft play on defense and Thompson being largely ineffective on the boards. I think his offense will be what it needs to be but if his defense ends up being less than satisfactory it will hurt considering the whole team is looking for an improved overall effort defensively.
Average close to a double-double in points and rebounds while blocking two shots per game and an aggressive effort guarding the ball. Thompson could be a major X factor giving the Heels an option no one is really expecting outside the occasional stellar game.