Hoyas’ Hollis Thompson firing on all cylinders in breakout year

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Hollis Thompson never met a shot he didn’t like.

The junior forward’s willingness to shoot any time, any place has become a running gag for his Georgetown teammates and coaches, who often crack wise about Thompson’s proclivity for firing the rock.

The mentality to shoot first and ask questions later usually leads to some garish percentages for indiscriminate marksmen, but Thompson has proven himself to be a rare breed — the highly accurate volume shooter.

Thompson is having a breakout season for No. 16 Georgetown, averaging 14.7 points on 54 percent shooting from the floor. He’s been almost as good from 3-point range, connecting on 53 percent to rank among the top 35 shooters in the nation.

Hollis is the best shooter in the country,” teammate Jason Clark said. “That’s how I put it. Hollis has always been a good shooter, ever since he got here. I think his confidence is up a lot more, so he’s knocking down the shots he’s supposed to.”

Before “slumping” with a 0-for-4 mark from long distance against Howard on Dec. 10, Thompson had seemingly knocked down every important 3-pointer he took, none bigger than the buzzer-beater that gave Georgetown a 57-55 win over then-No. 12 Alabama on Dec. 1.

Thompson also had a career-high six 3-pointers in the Hoyas’ victory over NJIT on Dec. 3, but Georgetown coach John Thompson III wasn’t impressed with that highlight.

“Before he leaves here, that will not be his career-high,” the coach said.

The funny thing is the Los Angeles native almost did leave Georgetown after a sophomore season in which he mostly came off the bench on a veteran-laden team.

In a surprise move, he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft, seemingly off one good performance - a 26-point, seven-rebound effort against Virginia Commonwealth in the Hoyas’ NCAA tournament loss in March.

Thompson got to work out against similar players, hear feedback and criticism on his game, and get a feel for the NBA routine before withdrawing his name in May.

“It was a great learning experience,” Thompson said. “I got to find out what would make me a better NBA prospect - size, defending, rebounding, things like that.”

Thompson returned to Georgetown with renewed focus, a stronger body and an important role on a young team that would need his experience and leadership. So far, Thompson has answered the questions about his game and lifted the surprising Hoyas to an 8-1 start going into Saturday’s game against city rival American (8-3).

Thompson’s performances also have put his name on the national radar. This week, Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis cited Thompson as one of the year’s breakout juniors.

“With his size, versatility and long-range touch, Thompson is the ideal player for Georgetown’s Princeton-style offense,” Davis wrote. “His ability to replace the output that was provided last year by Austin Freeman is a major reason why the Hoyas are one of the biggest surprise teams in the country.”

Seeing his forward develop something other than his shot has been critical for John Thompson, and he’s been pleased with the results thus far.

Hollis can really shoot, but other parts of his game, be it defense, rebounding or communication with his teammates, is much higher than it was in previous years,” he said.

The player already has earned Big East Player of the Week honors after a three-game stretch in which he averaged 17.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 53 percent from the floor. At 6-foot-8, Thompson hasn’t had much trouble finding the looks both on the perimeter and as he increases his slashing to the basket.

“I think it’s a big advantage to be able to shoot over people,” Thompson said. “I feel like not too many people my size are contesting my shots.”

Just to be clear, Thompson may be a shooter at heart, but his 89 field goals and 38 3-pointers both rank second on the Hoyas behind Clark. But numbers don’t matter to Thompson. Only looks do.

“If I have an open look, I shoot it,” he said.

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