Terrance Thompson can see again, and that has done nothing but make him a more important piece of the history being pieced together by the Central High School boys basketball team.
The Red Raiders spent this week preparing to play in their fourth consecutive WIAA Division 2 state tournament and trying to figure out how to beat Milwaukee Washington in Friday afternoon’s semifinal matchup at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Thompson spent the week seeing everything that coaches want players to do against the Purgolders, and that hasn’t always been the case.
Thompson, a 6-foot-7 junior, had vision issues that required glasses as a kid. He eventually stopped wearing the glasses he needed — without the necessary correction to his eyesight — and simply got by on instinct.
“I don’t know why, I just stopped wearing them,” Thompson said with a smile at Monday’s practice. “I couldn’t really see, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from playing.”
Central coach Todd Fergot made Thompson go to an eye doctor around Christmas, and Thompson was given new glasses and contacts. To say it has made a difference is an understatement.
“He isn’t squinting anymore,” Central senior Noah Parcher said of Thompson, who is averaging 7.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. “He’s a great shooter, and he’s really only starting to show it.”
Using a 10-foot shot from the left or right side of the hoop as an example, Thompson said he could see the rim and some of the square above the rim on the backboard. He sees everything clearly now and that is apparent.
Thompson made his biggest impact as a sophomore by rebounding and playing defense. That hasn’t changed drastically, but he is definitely playing at a new level this season.
“Terrance is a threat to anyone who plays in the paint,” Central junior Jordan Davis said. “He will do whatever he has to in there to defend, and he makes a lot of things hard for our opponents to do.”
Milwaukee Washington sophomore Michael Foster Jr. is the primary matchup for Thompson on Friday. Foster Jr., who has offers from Arizona State and LSU, scored 16 points and made 8 of 13 shots as the Purgolders beat the Red Raiders 70-58 in last year’s state semifinals.
Thompson understands that better interior defense is necessary this time, and Fergot isn’t concerned about getting it. Thompson is drawing Division I interest, too, and his ability to defend anywhere on the court is something that will impress even more college coaches.
“He can defend in the post and on the perimeter, and that’s been huge for us,” Fergot said. “With the trapping stuff we do, matchups change.
“You have to read up and get the next guy. That might put him with a point guard, and he can laterally stay with those guys as well as he can with anybody else. I don’t think a lot of people understand how good of a defender he really is.”
Thompson has deferred to teammates when it comes to scoring. Oh, he has had some big games with 16 points in a win over Division 1 Madison Memorial and 14 more during a great overall performance in a 54-51 win over Onalaska in the sectional semifinals.
“I leave that to Johnny (Davis), Jordan and Noah,” said Thompson, who has blocked 33 shots this season. “I defend, and I rebound. I have to be the toughness of this team, and I think I’m stronger and more mature this year and can do better with that.”
But don’t forget Thompson’s ability to shoot. While he has picked up a lot of his points on putbacks after offensive rebounds, Thompson has stepped behind the 3-point line and showed off a shooting touch that wasn’t seen during games last season.
Parcher said Thompson might shoot more than anyone on the team during the offseason and the improvement has been obvious.
Thompson has made 10 of 22 attempts from deep this season after Fergot said he didn’t even attempt one as a sophomore.
“Once he put on those contacts, he was hitting shots from everywhere,” Jordan Davis said. “No one has expected that from him, but he can step out there and hit the 3, which can be big for us.
“We have to find ways to get the ball to him there sometimes.”