Sports Spotlight: Thompson thrives with improved jump shot

Matthew Cummings

The shot clock is winding down. Redwood has swung the ball around the perimeter for about twenty seconds, waiting for something to happen. Nothing has.

Senior Molefi Thompson led Redwood's scoring attack this season while also racking up steals on the defensive end of the court.
Senior Molefi Thompson led Redwood’s scoring attack this season while also racking up steals on the defensive end of the court.

“Give it to Mo!” screams a proud father, beaming from ear to ear. His orders are followed, as Molefi Thompson receives the ball a few feet beyond the three-point line.

Last year he wasn’t a threat to shoot from here, shooting 38 percent on just 34 three-point attempts. This year, the defender plays right up against him, aware that he is a 42 percent three-point shooter who is not afraid to let it fly.

“I got much better with my jump shot,” Thompson said. “Just by being in the gym, working with [trainer Stiev Boyd], putting up shots.”

On this play, he takes advantage of the defender’s closeness, blowing by him and making his way toward the basket. He plants his left foot in the paint, sending his weight into the defender’s body, then explodes upward to flip a shot off the glass. It goes in, just like 46 percent of his shots this year.

“[Stiev] taught me that even if you miss a shot, you can’t just stop shooting,” he said.

So shoot he did, becoming the team’s primary offensive option, whether by using his quickness to penetrate into the lane or finding a clean look on the perimeter. He became an efficient scorer, passing up mid-range jumpers for corner threes and trips to the foul line.

His 12.5 points per game earned him a first-team all-league selection. The number is even more impressive when his playing time is considered; his 15.5 points per 32 minutes was good for second in the league behind fellow first-teamer Jesse Hunt of Drake.

The most efficient member of Redwood’s cadre of three-point shooters estimates that he spends five to six hours a day on the sport: playing pickup games, working out, watching basketball.

“In the NBA, I like to watch Chris Paul, Damian Lillard,” he said.

Paul and Lillard are premier ballhandlers in the pick-and-roll, a developing aspect of Thompson’s game which he began to hint at as the year went along.

“We put in more of that at the end of the season because we had to face more athletic big men,” Thompson said. “So I just try to see what the defense does, like if they go over or under the screen, if the big man drops back or steps up.”

The Giants typically set those screens high on the court, allowing Thompson space to showcase his much-improved three-point shooting.

Thompson hopes to showcase his entire game this spring with the Lakeshow AAU team as he attempts to garner a college offer.

“I want to play until I can no longer make a team,” Thompson said. “It’s about getting bigger, stronger, faster.”

To accomplish those goals, he has turned to Boyd, an intense trainer who has worked with the Redwood boys in the offseason over the past few years. Thompson worked out with Boyd this past summer, spending every day in the gym alongside promising sophomore Mike Sullivan.

Thompson said he feels more comfortable playing alongside Sullivan because of the hours they spent together in the offseason.

Even with his improved arsenal of scoring abilities, Thompson still describes his role in the offense as that of a distributor. Although he only averaged 2.1 assists per game, his slashing ability often opens up space for the highest-scoring team in the league to launch threes.