Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Taurean Thompson ready to make an impact at Seton Hall after transferring from Syracuse
By ADAM ZAGORIASOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — Taurean Thompson hasn’t had a cell phone ever since losing his during his freshman year at Syracuse.
Now he stays in touch with his family, friends and teammates with an Apple laptop computer (he’s on Instagram, too), but that doesn’t stop his new Seton Hall teammates from having fun with him about it.
“When we out, he can’t even give a girl his number,” teammate Myles Powell cracked. “I’m going to give you my laptop?”
Powell added: “He’s a funny guy, he’s probably the funniest guy we got on the team. We love ‘T.'”
The 6-foot-10 Thompson will suit up for the Pirates this season after sitting out last year following his transfer from Syracuse. The New York City native averaged 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks during his freshman season at Syracuse in 2016-17.
“I can’t wait,” he said of the season debut Tuesday againt Wagner at Walsh Gym. “I got butterflies.”
Thompson should bring a new look to the Seton Hall frontcourt since he’s much more of a stretch-four, pick-and-pop kind of big man than former center Angel Delgado, who was all about rebounds, layups and points in the paint. Thompson said he learned a lot about “rebounding and physicality” playing against Delgado in practice last season, but they’re certainly different players.
“He’s much different [than Angel],” Pirates coach Kevin Willard told ZAGSBLOG. “He’s a guy that can pick-and-pop. He can space out. He’s got a unique abilty to score from the mid-post range, so I think he’s a much different type of scorer than what Angel was.”
Willard said NBA scouts from the Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs have already been through to see his players, including Thompson.
“He definitely has pro potential, yes,” Willard said.
Thompson spent his junior year at legendary St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City under Hall of Famer Bob Hurley. He helped the team to a 28-2 record in 2014-15 that included winning the NJSIAA Non-Public B North championship.
“He’s always been able to shoot,” Powell said of Thompson. “When he went to St. Anthony’s I don’t think Hurley let him shoot that much. Hurley got his system and he wants his system ran how it’s ran but ‘T’ can always shoot.”
He then transferred to national power Brewster (N.H.) Academy for the 2015-16 season under coach Jason Smith, earning second-team All-NEPSAC recognition and helping the team to a 25-10 record. After the season, he competed in the 2016 Jordan Brand Classic Regional game and was named MVP after contributing 27 points and 13 rebounds. In the final recruit rankings, he was a consensus top 100 player with a ranking as high as No. 59 according to 247Sports.
He narrowed his recruiting options to Michigan State, Seton Hall and Syracuse, and then selected the Orange in July 2016.
After a solid freshman season, Thompson was expected to have a much bigger role in Syracuse’s frontcourt as a sophomore because the team only had 7-2 Providence transfer Paschal Chukwu and 6-10 Bourama Sidibe out of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark.
But Thompson said he broke his elbow in August of 2017 when he fell playing basketball outside at a park.
“I had surgery, they put screws in it,” he said. “It’s all good now.”
He said he notified Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim of his plans to transfer, but it wasn’t until late August that Thompson withdrew from Syracuse. That left Syracuse short-handed down low.
“We have been informed that Taurean is taking a leave of absence from Syracuse University,” Boeheim said then. “My understanding is he wants to go to school closer to home due to some family health issues.”
Said Thompson on Thursday: “I broke my elbow so I was like, I might not be ready for the season, so if I do transfer, that also played a role in me coming to Seton Hall….I wanted to be closer to home.”
Former Seton Hall associate head coach Shaheen Holloway had recruited Thompson and had a close relationship with his mother, so that was another reason why he chose the Pirates.
Now Thompson can say he’s been coached by two Naismith Hall of Famers in Boeheim and Hurley, along with a Rick Pitino disciple in Willard.
“[Boeheim and Willard] they both different people, they have different coaching styles,” Thompson said. “But I played with coach Hurley. I feel he’s tough, so if I can get through him I can get though anybody.”
The ups and downs have continued this season, too.
Thompson experienced chest pains during a recent trip to Boston for a scrimmage with Boston College. He ended up sitting out the scrimmage before he was cleared.
“We was in the Boston Celtics facility before the scrimmage against Boston College, that’s where I felt it,” he said.
Said Willard: “He started to get chest pains in the middle of practice in Boston and we sat him out. We couldn’t get him to a cardiologist up in Boston and the trainer wasn’t going to clear him and I wasn’t going to play him like that. We got everything checked out, clean [bill of] health. It was more than anything excitement and nerves and all that BS that goes into finally playing again.”
Thompson’s last organized game came over the summer when he played with Dyckman and lost in the Pro City championship game to Chris McCullough and Pro City in August. McCullough, the former Syracuse forward, scored 42 points in the championship.
“Chris had like 42, but it was a great game,” he said.
Now that he’s a week away from his first college game in two years, his teammates are as excited as he is. Powell said Thompson reminds him of former Villanova and current Atlanta Hawks forward Omari Spellman.
“When Omari first came he was surprising a lot of guys from Villanova because he could pop to the three,” Powell said. “He could shoot the ball so well. That’s probably one of the strong points in ‘T’s’ game and I really feel he’s going to surprise a lot of people in how he can shoot the ball.”
Like Spellman and the Seton Hall players from before him, Thompson sees himself as a big man who could fit well into the modern NBA. That’s his ultimate goal.
“I’m going to work hard, I know I could be there,” he said. “I think I’m a pro.”
If he impresses the scouts, eventually it might be time to get a cell phone.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.