Oregon State’s approach at point guard after the departure of JaQuori McLaughlin in early December was originally a three-headed attempt to fill the spot.
But more and more it’s been junior Stevie Thompson’s job, and the Beavers like what that’s meant offensively.
With Thompson taking the primary role, OSU coach Wayne Tinkle says “it’s as efficient as we’ve been all year.”
Tres Tinkle and Ethan Thompson, Stevie’s freshman brother, have taken turns in short stints as well.
As Pac-12 play was set to get underway three weeks ago, coach Tinkle said he was confident that they were capable of filling the role while acknowledging to that point the team had done it by committee.
But as the conference schedule has progressed, Stevie Thompson, a more natural shooting guard, has been the one at the point the most.
“I’m pretty comfortable playing that role, that position. I think it changes the game a little bit for me. Playing on the ball, trying to get other people involved more,” he said. “When Ethan can bring up the ball and play point it allows me to get more looks. There’s not really a big difference, just something that needs to be done.”
McLaughlin, a sophomore point guard, played six games this season before announcing his decision to transfer on Dec. 1 for personal reasons.
The Beavers had more turnovers (95) than assists (87) in those first six games with McLaughlin averaging 26 minutes. Since then, OSU has averaged two more assists than turnovers and had more assists than turnovers in eight of 11 games.
“Stevie is one of our best playmakers, obviously. One of our best scorers, too. He handles the pressure very well,” Tres Tinkle, a small forward, said, adding that he and teammates need to help Thompson more when he gets trapped by opposing defenses.
“He’s such a threat to have at the point because he can get to the hoop and finish, score, and (with) people helping he can find open shooters. Having him there has helped us a lot.”
Stevie Thompson remains the team’s second-leading scorer (16.5 points per game) despite the position change. He also averages 3.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Tinkle and Ethan Thompson have contributed to ball distribution as well, averaging 3.5 and 3.4 assists, respectively.
The shortening of the Beavers’ bench by the coaching staff has kept Stevie Thompson on the floor more. He’s averaging better than 36 minutes in conference games, with one turnover every 11.3 minutes.
Coach Tinkle says Thompson is not a guard that will break down a defense but will make plays for others as well as himself.
“We’ve got to be wise with the kind of situations we put him in because of his strengths, trying to utilize those strengths,” the coach said. “Every point guard you have, they bring different things. I know that he’s done a really good job for us, especially offensively for sure.”
Thompson overcame an early 3-point shooting slump and has made 48.3 percent (29 of 60) from deep in his last 10 games. He’s 14 of 27 (51.9 percent) in Pac-12 play.
Ethan Thompson pointed to the job his brother did last Saturday at Arizona State. Stevie had 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting (with 5 of 10 on 3-pointers), with three rebounds, three assists, two steals and two turnovers in 33 minutes.
“Their small guards like to get up into you. He did pretty well getting us into the offense,” Ethan Thompson said, “and sometimes just breaking the offense and going by them.”
Coach Tinkle says the goal now is breaking the pressure more quickly in order to get into the offense. Too much dribbling against the Sun Devils resulted in forced attempts at the end of the shot clock.
Ethan Thompson said having his brother at the point allows him to be more comfortable at shooting guard but believes it shouldn’t be primarily Stevie’s responsibility.
“I feel like I should be able to play the point more just to get it out of Stephen’s hands and get him some rest, and that’s something that I’m working on,” Ethan said.