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Thompson, Dow Facing Differing Expectations to Make Impact for OSU Hoops

Thompson scored his 1,000th points this week, as Dow proved he is capable at the Big 12 level.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — Bryce Thompson and Connor Dow share a team and the 918 area code, but there are some major differences in their origin stories.

A former five-star recruit from Tulsa, Thompson scored his 1,000th career point Tuesday in Oklahoma State’s 90-66 loss to Kansas — a team he scored the first 91 points of his career for. Those points came in a game where Dow, a freshman from Broken Arrow, proved he was capable of playing at the high-major level after a recruiting process that saw Dow take his only high-major offer.

Thompson was listed as the No. 20 player in the 2020 recruiting class. Three years later, Dow didn’t crack the top 250 of his class.

With Thompson’s status as a top recruit, expectations were he wouldn’t be in college long enough to score 1,000 points. Thompson’s five-star status as a high school prospect came with lofty expectations. Mike Boynton, OSU’s coach, has long harped on some of the unrealistic expectations put on high school kids — expectations that lead to players constantly looking at what’s ahead instead of getting better in the here and now. But it sounds like Thompson hasn’t lost sight of that day-to-day grind.

“I was just going with it,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t really trying to put any type of expectations on myself early. [Scoring 1,000 points is] just an accomplishment that came with the journey. Just try to keep going and try not to worry about external factors and stuff. Try to focus on day-in, day-out getting better and see where it takes me.”

For much of Dow’s recruitment, there was a wonder as to whether he’d ever be on Eddie Sutton Court playing meaningful minutes against the Jayhawks.

“That was obviously a goal,” Dow said, “but it probably wasn’t very realistic for me two years ago or so.”

Dow played AAU on Team Griffin — a team that also housed OSU center Brandon Garrison, a McDonald’s All-American. That team also featured Trent Pierce, a four-star prospect who is a freshman at Missouri; David Castillo, a four-star prospect in the 2024 class, who signed with Kansas State; and Tre Johnson, the No. 4 player in the 2024 class, who signed with Texas. Needless to say, Dow wasn’t the primary scoring option of that squad.

But eventually, Dow started to turn some heads. The summer going into his senior year at Broken Arrow, Dow picked up offers from Toledo, South Dakota State, Nebraska-Omaha, Oral Roberts and Jacksonville State. Then OSU brought him in on a visit that September. He was offered and committed during the visit.

“Talking to him, you got a sense that he was a pretty confident kid,” Boynton said. “Low ego, high humility, a kid that’s got a tremendous work ethic. Comes from a tremendous family and understands that nothing is given to you. I think the way he’s approached this season even has helped him.”

Dow isn’t having quite the freshman season Thompson did at Kansas, but Thompson played nearly twice as many minutes a game as Dow is. But Dow has seen an uptick lately after playing 11 minutes against Iowa State and 19 against the Jayhawks on Tuesday. If you compare the two guards’ per-40-minutes numbers, though, there are some similarities.

Per 40 Minutes Points Rebounds Assists FG% 3P%
Thompson (20-21) 10.7 3.5 2.6 35% 22%
Dow (23-24) 9.7 5.5 0.8 30% 29%

With the mighty expectations Thompson’s status as a recruit brought, it might be easy to look over the fact that he has gotten better every year he has played in college. His points per game have increased every season — going from 4.6 as a freshman, to 10.6 as a sophomore, to 11.8 as a junior and now 13.1 as a senior. 

Already having scored 1,000 points combined between KU and OSU, Thompson is on pace to score 1,000 just for the Cowboys, and in only three years. He’d be just the 43rd player in OSU’s history to score 1,000 points, and he could come back for a fourth season in an OSU uniform next year should he choose to.

The most obvious improvement in Thompson’s game over his college career is his 3-point shooting. He buttered his bread in the midrange early in his career, but the midrange isn’t looked at as fondly as it once was because it’s less efficient than 3s or buckets around the rim. 

After shooting 22% from 3 as a freshman at Kansas, Thompson shot 29% in his first season in Stillwater. That skied to 37% last season — the highest percentage on the team among players with more than one attempt. He’s shooting a slightly better 37.2% this season.

But when things don’t go well for OSU, some fingers from the outside are quick to point at Thompson and have since he arrived in Stillwater as a sophomore — something that comes with the expectations of being a five-star recruit. Dow not having to worry about those expectations is an example of the point Boynton is trying to make.

“Being a guy who people don’t really expect to start and be on the all-freshman team or whatever, not thinking about maybe going to the NBA,” Boynton said. “Like, just being right here, right now today at practice. ‘How do I get better? What do you need from me, coach? How do I help us win?’ That approach is always best. It’s harder for guys who are told all the time that they should be looking to something else.”

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