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May 15, 2014

Purdue one of three contenders for transfer guard

Purdue's looked throughout the spring for immediate reinforcements at point guard.

But if it lands Darius Thompson and has to wait a year for the Tennessee transfer to suit up for the Boilermakers, Matt Painter and Co. would seem more than willing.

Purdue has offered Thompson a scholarship and just hosted him for a mid-week official visit.

"It went great," said Lonnie Thompson, Darius Thompson's father and the coach at Cumberland University near Nashville. "Darius had a great visit and I thought Coach Painter and his staff did a great job making him feel comfortable and he really felt good about it. If he went there, he'd have no problem with it.

"We had a lot of connections on that staff, people on that staff knowing people I know and with Cuonzo (Martin) ... it's not like we went in to that situation having no clue about it. We had a good feel for Purdue before we went there."

The 6-foot-5 sophomore-to-be asked for his release from Tennessee after former Vols coach Martin - the former Purdue player and assistant coach under Gene Keady and Painter - left for California. A return to Tennessee, though, has not been ruled out yet, Lonnie Thompson said.

For the Volunteers as a freshman, Thompson logged 16.8 minutes per game and started 10 times, averaging two points and two rebounds. He handed out 87 assists, with a team-high 36 steals, contributing to Tennessee's surprising run to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. Slotted in a First Four game to begin with, Tennessee won three tournament games before narrowly falling to Michigan.

"His weakness is he's too unselfish at times. I've told him, 'Darius, sometimes you need to be in attack mode and look out for Darius more to help your team,'" Lonnie Thompson said. "I'm in my 50s and my basketball idol in life has been Magic Johnson. He's got some Magic Johnson in him in that he can dominate a game and have eight points, because he might also 12 assists and 10 rebounds, stuff like that. He's not going to go out there like, 'I have to get 25 a night.' If he needs to, he might be able to, but it won't be a night-in, night-out thing. He's a guy who wants to get his team involved and wants to make things easier for his teammates. That's a big part of his motivation."

With his size, Darius Thompson can play other positions also, Lonnie Thompson said, but has been, and is again being, recruited primarily for point guard.

"He can play other spots, but he's one of those kids who's probably best with the ball in his hands," Lonnie Thompson said. "Can he spot up and shoot it? Yes, he can. But if I were building a team with him, I'd like for him to have the ball in his hands 80 percent of the time."

Purdue has some history with Darius Thompson, who was 149th nationally by Rivals.com in the Class of 2013.

In addition to its connections to his former coach at Tennessee, Purdue recruited Thompson briefly as a senior at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, sending assistant coach Greg Gary to watch him play that year. Thompson originally committed to Vanderbilt before signing with UT.

Now, if it's not a return to Tennessee, which again, has not been publicly ruled out, it'll almost certainly be either Purdue or Virginia.

Thompson will officially visit the Cavaliers next week, maybe beginning Monday.

"He wanted to look at Purdue and Virginia," Lonnie Thompson said. "Beyond that, I don't see anything else right now. We want to get this over quick, so he can make plans to go back to Tennessee, go to Purdue or go to Virginia."

Should Thompson land with the Boilermakers or Cavaliers, he'll have to sit out next season per NCAA transfer rules, then would have three remaining seasons of eligibility beginning in 2015.

"By transferring and sitting out, I think that's a blessing in disguise," Lonnie Thompson said. "I was hoping someone would bring him in last year and sit him out, because I thought that might be the best thing to happen to him. But when (Tennessee) recruited him, they kind of needed him to come in and play right away."

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