Thompson arrives

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:30 PM ET

On the biggest stage of his life, Tristan Thompson arrived.

The pride of Brampton proved that the hype bestowed upon him over the past couple of years was not idle praise.

Thompson — who either this summer or next will become the first Canadian taken in the first round of the NBA draft since Jamaal Magloire over a decade ago — was the dominant presence as his Texas Longhorns overwhelmed the Oakland Golden Grizzlies early before pulling out a 85-81 win in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Friday.

Tiny Oakland, located just outside of Detroit, had been a trendy pick to pull off the upset against the No. 4 seed.

Thompson wasn’t about to let that happen. He book-ended the game with a massive rejection at the start and another even-more emphatic one near the end.

Ignoring a hostile crowd, the 6-foot-9 finalist for freshman of the year erased NBA star LaMarcus Aldridge’s school record for blocks in a tournament game with seven — five in the first half alone, along with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

While the pundits proclaimed Oakland’s centre Keith Benson, the two-time conference player of the year who was second in the NCAA in blocked shots, would have his way with the Canadian, it was very much the other way around.

Thompson bullied Benson down low and rejected a trio of his jump shots — the hardest types of offensive plays to block.

Running the floor with his typical relentlessness, the first Canadian ever to top the North American high school rankings — which he did for a spell a couple of years ago — earned praise from the television team of former NBA champion and general manager Steve Kerr and Marv Albert.

“That matchup was the key to this whole thing because Benson normally dominates action,” Kerr said late in the broadcast.

“Just being aggressive, giving us second-chance points,” explained Thompson of his performance.

Though Oakland showed tremendous heart in cutting a 15-point late Texas lead to five, thanks to Thompson’s work, it was too steep a hill to climb.

Longhorns coach Rick Barnes, just 19-18 at the tournament coming in, knows Thompson is giving him a chance to improve upon that poor record.

“He’s been terrific from Day 1, just getting started with how good he can be,” Barnes said.

Thompson’s longtime pal and teammate Cory Joseph of Pickering was a key cog in the win as well.

With his usual sturdy defence, steady hand and timely long-range shooting, Joseph was another Maple Leaf thorn in Oakland’s side with 11 points, four assists and just one turnover.

Bloodied from a collision but unbowed, Joseph calmly sank 3-of-4 from the line when the game was suddenly in doubt.

Thompson is considered a first-round-calibre NBA pick before this tournament began, but it was unclear whether he would head for the pros or elect to stay in Austin, Tex., with Joseph and two incoming Canadian pals.

If he plays another game or two like this one, he won’t just be a first-rounder, he’ll be Canada’s highest-ever draft pick.


Videos

Photos