Sam Thompson

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 19: Sam Thompson #12 of the Ohio State Buckeyes dunks in front of Treveon Graham #21 of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams in the first half during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Moda Center on March 19, 2015 in Portland, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Sam Thompson navigates NBA Draft prep while finishing degree at Ohio State

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source: Getty Images
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Going through the NBA Draft process is an exhausting experience for college basketball players looking to take the next step in their career. Between two-a-day workouts, weight lifting, getting up extra shots and traveling between team draft workouts, the focus is on basketball and making it at the professional level once players enter their name in the NBA Draft.

For some seniors in the NBA Draft process like Ohio State’s Sam Thompson, draft workouts continue on a daily basis along with completing the academic requirements that are necessary to earn a college degree. Thompson is one of many former student-athletes in the NBA Draft process who finished out the spring semester of classes.

After Ohio State’s season ended with a loss to Arizona in the Round of 32, Thompson started working out at Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas to prepare for the rigors of professional basketball. To earn his degree in finance after the spring semester, Thompson also needed to complete four more weeks in five finance classes.

Between the two-a-day workouts, weights and completing assignments, Thompson had a grueling four-week stretch where most of his free time away from basketball was spent studying. After his first two weeks in Las Vegas, Thompson returned home for a week for final exams on campus before returning to NBA Draft process.

Thompson walked at graduation May 10 with his degree in finance. Now he hopes to hear his name selected during the 2015 NBA Draft.

“I made arrangements with all of my teachers to work remotely. Turn in some assignments online and stuff like that,” Thompson said. “When I went away to workouts, it was a month before all my classes finished out. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But I knew that coming back and taking five classes was less likely than for me to finish up here and now. So that was just my biggest motivation.”

Besides his high-flying, four-year basketball career at Ohio State — in which he became nationally known as “Slam” Thompson to some because of his aerial displays at the rim –Sam focused on his finance degree to plan for his life after basketball. Coming from a family that values academics, Sam often heard from his parents and siblings about sticking with basketball and his degree track during his final weeks of school. One of Sam’s former teammates at Ohio State also had a similar experience with finishing up school while working out for NBA teams and it helped Sam to have the support of those people.

“The plan and the goal was for me to always get my college degree. [My parents] sort of set the standard in the house. They’ve been on me pretty hard about it,” Thompson said. “I remember Aaron Craft last year, he was pretty adamant about getting his degree. He was another guy that balanced the NBA Draft process with getting his degree, so we had a few conversations.”

Working out with other seniors like Penn State’s D.J. Newbill, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten and Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas at Impact Basketball Academy, Thompson noticed that other guys working out for the draft were also trying to complete a couple of classes. When his degree was finally completed, Thompson didn’t have to worry about checking emails from professors or handing in assignments. It was back to his basketball dreams.

“A few guys left to take exams and stuff. I’m not the only guy doing it. It’s just something that, as seniors, we have to do.” Thompson said. “I liked finance and I really enjoyed my time at Ohio State. Just to say that I finished school and to walk out of there with a degree is all I need. I know how hard of a grind it is balancing being a student and being an athlete. I know how hard it is to get a degree in finance from Ohio State University without being an athlete. To be able to do both is definitely something I wanted to do for myself and it’s something that’s going to stick with me for the rest of my life.”

Working on areas like his jumper and his handle the last few months, Thompson is hoping that he’ll get a shot in the NBA because of his ability to defend multiple wing spots right away. If professional basketball doesn’t end up working out, Thompson always has the backup plan of going into investment banking. Going back to school to get an MBA wouldn’t be out of the question for Thompson if it meant furthering his career in finance. Even if he has a long career in basketball, Thompson knows that investment banking will be there for him after he retires from basketball.

“Obviously, being a financial analyst for a major investment firm is an 80- or 90-hour week. So it’s not really feasible while I’m still playing,” Thompson said. “That is definitely the Plan B if I’m not able to play professional basketball. I haven’t exactly figured out how I want to use my degree while I’m playing, but I definitely want to stay sort of in the financial realm throughout my career so I can enter into it after my career. It’s something I really enjoy and I’ve spent a lot of time over these past four years studying it. It’s something that I’m definitely interested in going into.”

During the NBA Draft process, Thompson has worked out for Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, the Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Utah. Although a minor muscle pull forced Thompson to cancel four other workouts during the process, he remained focused on getting his degree while pursuing his basketball dreams. Thompson is fully healthy now and hoping for an opportunity. It wasn’t easy to go through five finance classes while working out for the NBA Draft, but Thompson got it done and he’s satisfied knowing that he’s done everything he can to put himself in position for success.

“Sometimes, I just needed some time to step away. But what choice do you have? You just have to suck it up and get it done,” Thompson said. “Everyone just basically said the same thing. Obviously, the NBA Draft is the biggest thing in your life and you want to devote all of your energy and your time to it, but at the same time, you have a couple of more weeks of academic responsibility. It’s just something you have to get done.”

Defense turns into instant offense for Ohio State’s Sam Thompson (VIDEO)

Ohio State v Michigan State
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At this stage in the season No. 23 Ohio State is in a position where they’re playing to get the best possible seed in the NCAA tournament, and their game against No. 6 Wisconsin this weekend will certainly have an impact. Wednesday night was more about avoiding a damaging loss, which is what the Buckeyes did by winning 77-67 at Penn State.

Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell scored a game-high 28 points to lead the way, with Jae’Sean Tate and Shannon Scott adding 13 apiece with Scott also tallying seven rebounds and seven assists. But the highlight of the game was provided by senior wing Sam Thompson, who managed to turn defense into immediate offense during the first half.

Defending the inbounds pass with the Buckeyes pressing full court, Thompson batted the pass into the air. Of course the ball hit high off the backboard and fell through the basket, essentially summing up the night for both teams.

Video credit: Big Ten Network

D’Angelo Russell lobs alley-oop to Sam Thompson in Ohio State’s win over James Madison (VIDEO)

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No. 16 Ohio State remained perfect on Friday evening with a 73-56 win over James Madison.

D’Angelo Russell had a team-high 14 points and five assists, one of which went to Sam Thompson for another Slam Thompson dunk. One of the nation’s top high-flyers added 13 points and grabbed six rebounds.

College Basketball Talk’s Top 100 Players: Nos. 80-61 #CBTTop100

Bobby Portis
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College Basketball Talk’s Top 100 Players: Nos. 100-81

College Basketball Talk’s Top 100 Players: Nos. 100-81

2014-2015 Season Preview: Stanley Johnson, Sam Dekker lead wing forward rankings

Stanley Johnson (Arizona Athletics)
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source: Getty Images
Sam Dekker (Getty Images)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

The wing position in college basketball this season will be fun to keep track of. It can be argued that from a depth standpoint this is the strongest position for incoming freshmen, with two players expected to be NBA Draft lottery selections in the near future and others expected to have a significant impact on their team’s fortunes. But there are also skilled veterans among the ranks, including one who reached the Final Four last season and another whose team fell one win short of that goal. What’s the common bond amongst many of these players? Versatility, which allows them to impact games in multiple facets.

Below are some of the best wings in college basketball this season, beginning with a gifted freshman from the Pac-12.

POSITION RANKINGS: Lead Guards | Off Guards | Wing Forwards | Big Men


1. Stanley Johnson, Arizona: Johnson has the build of a pro and the skill set to match, as he’s capable of scoring at all three levels with great consistency. He’s no slouch on the defensive end either, which is key when fitting into what was one of the nation’s best defensive teams a season ago. In a season without a clear-cut choice for national Player of the Year, Arizona’s freshman wing could be right in the mix come March.

2. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: Dekker went from reserve to starter in 2013-14 and his productivity was one reason for the Badgers’ trek to the Final Four. Dekker averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, shooting nearly 47 percent from the field. If he can raise his three-point shooting back to freshman year levels (39.1%), and he looked better shooting the ball at the LeBron James Skills Academy in July, Dekker becomes an even tougher assignment for opposing teams.

3. Delon Wright, Utah: The late Bum Phillips’ words regarding Earl Campbell may apply to Wright when it comes to discussing the most versatile players in college basketball: “he may not be in a class by himself, but it don’t take long to call roll.” Wright (15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.3 apg) was a pivotal figure for the Utes in 2013-14, leading the team in scoring and assists. It could be argued that Wright should be on the lead guards list given how often he’s allowed to initiate the offense for Larry Krystkowiak’s team, but he fits in at any of the three perimeter positions.

4. Kelly Oubre, Kansas: One of three freshmen to make the top ten in our list, Oubre has the skill set needed to be one of the most gifted scorers in the country immediately. The 6-foot-8 lefty has a slight build, but he can finish through contact and is a good perimeter shooter as well. Oubre also uses ball screens well, an attribute that was on display at the adidas Nations camp in August. Given the production Kansas lost on the wing in the form of Andrew Wiggins, Oubre will have plenty of chances to put points on the board.

source: AP
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

5. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona: Hollis-Jefferson is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country, and he was very good around the basket as a freshman. The question for Hollis-Jefferson (9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg in 2013-14) is a simple one: how much has he improved his perimeter shooting over the summer? Hollis-Jefferson showed progress in July at the Lebron camp, and a consistent perimeter shot would make him an even tougher player for opponents to defend.

6. Treveon Graham, VCU: The 6-foot-6 senior has been a consistently productive player for Shaka Smart throughout his career, averaging 15.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last season. Graham can certainly shoot the ball from the perimeter, but he’s good in the mid-range game and can put the ball on the deck as well. He’ll be one of the leaders for a team expected by many to win the Atlantic 10.

7. Justin Jackson, North Carolina: The third freshman in the top ten, the 6-foot-8 Jackson can score both inside and out for the Tar Heels in 2014-15. As a high school senior Jackson averaged 31.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, and his length makes him a nuisance on the defensive end of the floor.

8. Aaron White, Iowa: With Roy Devyn Marble having moved on, the 6-foot-8 White will be an even more important player for the Hawkeyes in 2014-15. As a junior White averaged 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, shooting 58.6% from the field. The loss of Marble should open up more opportunities for White, especially when it comes to the mid-range game where he was so successful a season ago.

9. Branden Dawson, Michigan State: Dawson’s had to navigate injuries for most of his career in East Lansing, but there should be little doubt regarding his skill level. Last season Dawson averaged 11.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest, and given the amount of production the Spartans lost (Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne) the senior will need to be even more influential on the offensive end.

10. Wesley Saunders, Harvard: Saunders is one of the leaders for the Crimson, having averaged 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game as a junior. Saunders’ versatility is one of his greatest attributes, and he’s also done a good job of getting to the foul line in each of the last two seasons.


  • 11. Anthony Brown, Stanford
  • 12. Justise Winslow, Duke
  • 13. Winston Shepard III, San Diego State
  • 14. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
  • 15. Bryce Dejean-Jones, Iowa State
  • 16. Sam Thompson, Ohio State
  • 17. Dustin Hogue, Iowa State
  • 18. Theo Pinson, North Carolina
  • 19. Kyle Collinsworth, BYU
  • 20. Anthony Drmic, Boise State

ALSO CONSIDERED: Justin Anderson (Virginia), Patricio Garino (George Washington), Vince Hunter (UTEP), Nick King (Memphis), Justin Martin (SMU), Sheldon McClellan (Miami), Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming), Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State), Marcus Thornton (Georgia), Tyrone Wallace (California), Byron Wesley (Gonzaga).

2014-2015 Season Preview: College Basketball’s Top 13 Dunkers (VIDEOS)

Michael Qualls, Arkansas (Getty Images)
Michael Qualls, Arkansas (Getty Images)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

There are very few things in the sport basketball that can get fans out of their seats the way that a massive dunk can, which is why we’re here to help you. You want to know what games and what players to watch in case a freak athlete decides to take flight on some poor, unsuspecting defender that jumped? We’ve got you covered.

Here are college basketball’s best dunkers (with examples of why):

RELATED: 12 minutes of the best dunks from 2013-2014

1. Michael Qualls, Arkansas: Qualls is a 6-foot-6 wing that plays for Mike Anderson and Arkansas, meaning that he’ll have plenty of opportunities in the open floor with a lane to the rim. Qualls averaged 11.6 points last season, but he’s probably best known for the game-winning tip-dunk he had in a win over Kentucky. That wasn’t his best dunk, however:

2. John Brown, High Point: High Point isn’t exactly known for being a basketball powerhouse, but they managed to land one of the nation’s highest-flyers three years ago. Brown has been posterizing defenders for a long, long time in the Big South:

MORE: John Brown’s road from being a JV QB to the Big South Player of the Year

3. Sam Thompson, Ohio State: You know you’re a big-time dunker when you have a nickname that is a synonym for dunk: Slam Thompson. His specialty? Finishing alley-oops. Here’s what I mean:

4. Shaquille Johnson, Longwood: Johnson did not last long at Auburn, as he’s looking for a second chance to get his hoops career going with the Lancers. It may not actually happen for Johnson this season, but the former top 100 recruit still owns the most impressive mixtape I’ve seen:

5. Ike Nwamu, Mercer: Nwamu threw down one of the best dunks I’ve ever seen at the Mercer Midnight Madness. He dunks like that in games, too:

6. Keifer Sykes, Green Bay: Sykes is the smallest player on this list, but he may actually be the best leaper. How many players do you know that can throw an alley-oop to themselves?:

RELATED:’s Mid-Major All-Americans

7. Troy Williams, Indiana: Williams entered college with the reputation of being one of the best dunkers in high school basketball, but his freshmen season yielded surprisingly few posterizations. That should change this season, as Williams is a year older, stronger and better and the Hoosiers will be looking to play a more uptempo, spread out style.

8. J.P. Tokoto, North Carolina: Tokoto is a high-flying wing for the Tar Heels, and while his lack of a jump shot means he’s a long way away from being more than an athlete and an energy at this point, he should be a nice compliment alongside Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson. And given Roy Williams’ tendency to push tempo, don’t be surprised to see Tokoto constantly making the highlight reel.

9. Deuce Bello, Missouri: Bello is a high-flying shooting guard that was a favorite of the mixtape guys during his time in high school. But he was never able to catch on with Baylor, and eventually transferred to Missouri before sitting out the 2013-2014 season. You don’t just lose hops like this, though.

10. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: There is nothing pretty about Harrell. His game is entirely centered

11. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona: Hollis-Jefferson is a unique player, an explosive, entertainingly athletic wing that attacks the glass, is a terror defensively and is a more-than-capable passer. He could have been a first round pick if he left school after last season, but he returned to school and is a jump shot away from being in the 2015 lottery. In the meantime, let’s hope he keeps doing this.

12. Javonte Douglas, Old Dominion: He’s a JuCo transfer, but I promise you know who he is:

13. Cliff Alexander, Kansas: Alexander may not end up being the player that Montrezl Harrell is this season, and he may not end up being a major part of Bill Self’s offensive attack, but the Jayhawk big man will dunk anything and everything around the rim.


  • Kethan Savage, George Washington: A broken foot kept Savage out for much of the end of last season, but that hasn’t hurt his explosiveness.
  • Chris McCullough, Syracuse: McCullough is the latest in a long line of lanky athletes playing for Jim Boeheim.
  • Deonte Burton, Marquette: Burton threw down what might have been the Dunk of the Year last season.
  • Norman Powell, UCLA: Powell will have a chance to play a bigger role in the offense this season with all of the pieces the Bruins lost. Will that leads to more of this?
  • Dez Wells, Maryland: Wells had an off-year from a dunking perspective this past season.
  • Damarius Smith, Austin Peay: He should probably be higher. This is ridiculous.
  • Tekele Cotton, Wichita State: Cotton is the least-known member of the Shocker perimeter, but that’ll change if he keeps posterizing defenders.