Pitt’s basketball’s 2016-17 season is mercifully over. After suffering through a season with questionable senior leadership, no point guard, no true center and lack of chemistry, Kevin Stalling and staff are in the process of rebuilding the entire roster. Seven new and talented players have verbally committed to play for the Panthers next season. One of them is Fairfax (VA) Paul VI guard Aaron Thompson (6-foot-2 inches, 180 pounds). Thompson led his team to a 27-5 record this season before losing in the conference championship game to Gonzaga High School (Washington, D.C.).
Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with him about his senior season and future as a Pitt Panther.
Recap your senior season for Pitt fans. How do you feel you performed?
I thought it went pretty well. I think I solidified myself as one of the best players to play at my school. Just winning-wise, I accomplished some of my goals that I wanted to accomplish this year, but the main goal that I had was winning a championship and I didn’t experience that this year. That was probably the biggest upsetting thing that I didn’t get to accomplish. I would say everything else went according to plan this year. We won as many games as we could, we dropped a few games that we should’ve won, but overall, my senior year experience thanks to everybody else on my team, our young players, they stepped up. Overall, my senior year went according to plan. It was great other than winning a championship. That’s probably what hurt the most, not winning the championship to capitalize and show how great of a season we really had.
What aspects of your game improved throughout your senior year? What did you improve on?
I think I improved on communicating more effectively with my teammates, just trying to make them do stuff that they wouldn’t usually do, but I talked to them in different ways, and all my personnel on the court. I think my shot selection improved as well. I know when it’s my time to score, when to step up and score, and when to get my other teammates involved. I think I improved in almost every area of the game this year, just kind of like controlling the game, I think I had a big step in that this year, too.
Pittsburgh Sports Now recently spoke with class of 2017 forward Jared Wilson-Frame. He stated that he watched every Pitt game this season and felt the same frustration as the fans. Thompson is no different. Like Wilson-Frame, Thompson was cognizant of the issues that cursed the 2016-17 season and he sees the rebuild next season as a great opportunity.
What are you going to bring to the table next year? What are your thoughts on your freshman season?
I just want to bring kind of like a leadership role. I’m still going to be a freshman, but I want to take on the role of a leader. On and off the court, I want to set the tone in the locker room and on the court. I want to bring my competitiveness, and what that does, I think that’s one of the biggest keys to my game is just being a competitor and competing on every possession, and I hope that it’s contagious to the rest of the team.
You are a highly regarded point guard. Jamel Artis was asked to play point guard for the Panthers last season. When you were watched Pitt play, did you visualize what you could do for the team? Did you place yourself in Artis’ role?
Yeah, I think that’s what a lot of players do. I’ve definitely done that a couple times. But I also kind of just thought about the players that we’ll have next year, put myself in that position, not with the seniors that they had this year, but with the incoming class, just kind of figure out like how can I be effective in a situation and stuff like that.
Have you had the opportunity to communicate a lot with members of the Panthers’ 2017 recruiting class?
Not that often. I went to go see Marcus (Carr) play. He played not too far from my house, I think it was around January. I went to go see him play. So I haven’t got a chance to talk to Terrell (Brown) though. I talked to Troy (Simons) over Twitter a couple times, but that’s about it. I haven’t talked to Shamiel. I wanted to talk with Marcus in person but a fight broke out at the end of his game and I couldn’t get to him. I’m looking forward to when we all get together.
Tell the fans about your off-season. What will you be doing to prepare for your freshman season? Are you working with a strength and conditioning coach?
I usually work out with a couple of my AAU coaches throughout the week. I kind of do my own lifting and stuff like that, but during the season we had our own strength and conditioning coach. I’ll probably get back with the strength and conditioning coach here in about a week. We’re just working on kind of like getting my shot together and making sure I’m ready, like pace-wise and physically and stuff like that. I don’t really have like a regimen or anything right now because the season just ended but I think probably starting next week, I’ll probably get in the full swing of things.