Catching up with freshman guard Stephen Thompson Jr.

Josh Worden Senior Beat Reporter

Freshman guard Stephen Thompson, Jr. is the third-leading scorer for the 17-10 Oregon State men’s basketball team. Thompson, Jr. leads the team with 38 made 3-pointers and is averaging 10.0 points per game, highlighted by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer for the win last week against Washington and the game-winning free throws four weeks ago versus Utah. He talked with the Daily Barometer this Monday a couple days before OSU’s road trip to end the regular season against USC and UCLA.

Individually, how do you describe the first 27 games of your freshman year?

“I think it’s been good for me so far this season. I think I’ve grown a lot throughout the season. Defensively I’ve gotten better with (head coach Wayne) Tinkle’s schemes, and hopefully it just keeps progressing throughout my career here. In high school we only did man to man. No zone at all, only man to man. That was a big thing: getting used to coach Tinkle’s zone. That was the main challenge coming in.”

With the team on the edge of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 26 years, what does it mean for you to be a key part of that momentum?

“It’s definitely something special. Throughout the recruitment process, that was one of the main things I was looking forward to being able to be a part of. Being able to change a program, make a program better and make a big impact.”

If OSU makes the NCAA Tournament, will you fill out a bracket and will you predict OSU to win it all?

“Oh yeah, of course. If I were to fill out a bracket, I would definitely have us going all the way. You’ve got to be confident in order to be able to work for it.”

How many times have you watched the replay of your buzzer-beating game-winner against Washington last week?

“Just under 50 times, maybe. It’s been on social media, every time somebody posts about it, I’ll watch it. People will send me the video or links to it, like I hadn’t seen it already. Every time somebody sends it to me, I’ll watch it.”

When you watch the replay, do you focus on people’s reactions?

“That’s the main thing, that’s probably the reason why the number of times I’ve watched it is so high, because each time I’m trying to watch the reaction of somebody else and see how they reacted, whether it’s somebody on the bench or somebody in the crowd. That’s a pretty special part about it.

Which teammate or coach’s reaction surprised you?

“(Assistant coach Greg) Gottlieb. He jumped up in the air and I think that’s the highest I’ve ever seen him jump. It was a pretty high leap with high knees. Coach Tinkle ran off towards half court.”

Had you made a game winning shot before?

“I think I made one in travel ball, but it wasn’t as big as that one. That was my first buzzer beater, where the buzzer went off right after I released it.”

Where does that shot rank for you in not just basketball plays but life highlights?

“Probably top three. It’s very high up there, a very special moment that I’ll remember forever.”

Do people recognize you on campus often?

“Yeah, a little bit. After the Washington game, I got it a lot walking to class, people saying ‘good shot,’ and people wanting to walk with me. So that was pretty cool. Everyone on campus is usually pretty nice, I haven’t come across anyone who wasn’t, so it’s pretty special.”

You came to OSU knowing your father, Stephen Thompson, Sr. would coach you as an assistant on Tinkle’s staff. How has playing for him gone and how has your relationship developed?

“It’s just special playing for my father and being around him while ‘away’ for college. I go to his house sometimes on the weekends because it’s easy to do homework over there. I think we’ve gotten a little closer throughout the year. He lives in Albany, about 20 minutes away. It’s been pretty steady throughout the season. Before the season, he asked me how I wanted him to approach the situation and coach me. He tries not to be too hard and treat me like a regular player and not his son while we’re on the court. And then off the court he’ll tell me more stuff. He knows my strengths and weaknesses really well, so I think it’s a good relationship.”

At 6-foot-4 and 170 pounds with some lanky arms, do opponents ever trash talk you about your body type?

“Not really this season yet, but in practice some of my teammates will talk about it when I get a steal. They’ll say it was because of the long arms.”

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