Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Local Guard Ready To Fill Leading Role (Fresh Faces)

By Jake SimpsonThe Daily Northwestern

After watching a New Yorker and a Croatian national lead Northwestern for the last two years, fans might see a local product run the Wildcats’ offense next season.

Hailing from Chicago’s Lincoln Park High School, Michael Thompson is one of NU’s top recruits, a point guard with passing skills who can also knock one down from behind the arc.

“Michael can hopefully be a true point guard, something that wasn’t really a part of the team last season,” freshman forward Kevin Coble said. “He can make that pass that no one else can and make the play that no one else can make.”

A three-year starter at Lincoln Park, Thompson will attempt to fill part of the void left by graduating senior Tim Doyle. Last season, Doyle set an NU single-season record with 157 assists, 34 percent of the team’s total.

Thompson’s high school coach, Tom Livatino, said he believes the young point guard, who averaged eight assists a game last season, has the passing skills necessary to thrive at the collegiate level.

“He’s a very, very, very good passer,” Livatino said. “And he’s been improving every part of his game in the offseason.”

NU assistant coach Tavaras Hardy said he believes Thompson can fill the void left by Doyle – as more than just a passer.

“Losing Tim, Thompson’s going to have to pick up a lot of that load,” Hardy said. “He’s going to be big late in the shot clock, when he can penetrate and kick out to open shooters.”

If he can be a force off the dribble, Thompson will boost NU’s flagging offense, which averaged 58.5 points per game last season, the worst in the Big Ten by more than six points. Thompson averaged 16 points per game in his senior season, best on his team, and said he hopes to make an immediate impact on offense.

“I can come in looking to score like I’ve been doing (in high school), finding my shot and getting my teammates the ball,” Thompson said.

As impressive as Thompson is on the court, his biggest attribute may be the maturity and poise he has shown off it. Livatino said Thompson is as excellent a student as he is an athlete, and that he has been “a great example to his peers.”

That attitude could ease Thompson’s transition to the next level, allowing him to focus all his energy on improving his game. It may also help him become one of the team’s leaders as a freshman, something Thompson said was one of his goals.

“I think I can bring a great deal of leadership right away,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s Chicago roots will provide additional benefits to himself and his new team. With his family and friends barely 10 miles away, the recruit will have a second homecourt advantage every time he plays at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Hardy said Thompson will be a powerful recruiting tool for years to come.

“Thompson is very well known and respected among the local basketball community,” Hardy said. “Everyone in the (next two recruiting) classes knows who he is and that he’s playing for us. So we plan on highlighting him in the future.”

For the Cats to thrive in the coming seasons, Thompson will have to click with Coble, the team’s rising star. Coble, who led the team with 13.4 points per game last season, gave the new recruit a vote of confidence.

“The first time I played with (Thompson), I just enjoyed being out on the court with him,” he said. “I see him as one of our top six or seven guys.”

Thompson said he and Coble have already developed an on-court chemistry.

“At open gyms me and him have played really well together,” Thompson said. “I feel like I’m clicking with all the guys.”

If Thompson can make good on his claim and quickly integrate himself into NU’s offense, he could be in the starting lineup before the Cats play another game. In that case, Thompson says, he has some big plans for his new team’s future – namely the Big Dance.

“I’m looking to finally lead us … to the NCAA tournament,” he said.

Reach Jake Simpson at [email protected].

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Local Guard Ready To Fill Leading Role (Fresh Faces)