Having played only one minute in Ohio State's loss at Kansas Saturday, Thompson figured it was because Thad Matta liked his length against Spartans guard Torrey Craig, who had already accounted for 10 points in the first half.
What Thompson didn't know was Matta planned on putting him into the game that early long before Craig got things going offensively.
"We felt there was going to be the potential to play some more minutes for him (going into the game)," Matta said. "He's been very solid in practice and he's been very engaged in understanding his role on this team and what he needs to do."
Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Jordan Sibert – both of which have played the majority of the minutes for the Buckeyes at shooting guard – struggled to slow Craig down up until that point. For the final eight minutes of he first half, Craig didn't score again.
Meanwhile, Ohio State closed out the first half with a 20-7 run to take an otherwise close game and create a 9-point separation at the break.
"When he called my name, I just wanted to get in there and do what he asked me to do," Thompson said after the game. "(Craig) at that point, I think, had scored eight straight points, so I just wanted to get in there and make it difficult for him, use my length, use my athleticism."
Thompson, who finished the first half with two blocks and two points while helping Ohio State earn command of the game, was rewarded 13 more minutes of playing time in the second half. He finished the game with eight points, two assists and two blocks in 21 minutes.
"Sam has really been doing a good job," Matta said. "He's starting to understand, he's starting to pick things up. Sam is one of those kids who just wants to win. He understands the game and he can look at things and say, ‘This is what you need me to do.' I was very pleased with how he played."
Matta was quoted at Big Ten Media Days saying Thompson could be one of the most athletic players he's every coached. Given some of the athletes that have played under Matta, those comments weren't shoved to the side.
Thompson put that athleticism on display soon after checking into the game on a come-from-behind block that prevented what looked to be an uncontested transition bucket for Upstate. Ohio State scored on the other end quickly, enabling the Buckeyes (9-1) to keep the crucial run alive.
In the second half Thompson added to his point total with two dunks, one of which was an acrobatic reverse slam that put an exclamation point on the freshman's first taste of extended time on the floor.
Thompson hopes this could be a progression for him to land more playing time.
"It is not really my decision to make, but if the coaching staff thinks (I should play more) than absolutely," Thompson said. "I'll always be ready when my number is called. If they want to go with Lenzelle or Jordan or any other wing guys, it is what it is."
Perhaps it is that understanding that has Thompson in the position he's in. His performance in his first opportunity to show what he's capable of in a game likely won't hurt his cause, either.
"I think it could (lead to more playing time for Sam), I really do," Matta said. "Sam knows all the positions. Yesterday we were a little disheveled (in practice), someone got hit in the thigh, and he jumped in and played a big man position. He has a great feel for that and what we need him to do."