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Winter Slam: BTN Featuring Thompson

They have brought you insightful and heartwarming stories the last four years on basketball players from around the Big Ten, including Ohio State standouts Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger and most-recently Deshaun Thomas. This weekend, the Big Ten Network’s excellent show – The Journey – will have some fun and air a feature on the high-flying escapades of dunk-artists Sam Thompson from OSU and Rodney Williams from Minnesota.

The Journey will feature Thompson this Sunday.

We had a chance to catch up with Bill Friedman, lead producer of The Journey, to learn more about the upcoming piece (which will premiere at 8 p.m. [ET] Sunday).

“We wanted to look at it through the lens of who the best dunkers are in the conference right now,” Friedman said. “One of the things that really stands out to you is that there are a lot of great dunkers in the Big Ten this year. I really think this has been the best year for dunkers in quite some time.

“Obviously, Sam Thompson jumps to the front of the mind. Rodney Williams at Minnesota, Victor Oladipo at Indiana, Branden Dawson are a few others off the top of my head. But there have been others who’ve had highlight dunks this year. A guy like Jared Berggren from Wisconsin, Joe Bertrand from Illinois and a couple others.

“But I think when you really narrow it down, you had Ohio State and Minnesota playing this week, the two-best dunkers in the Big Ten, let’s talk to both of them about dunking. But let’s talk to them not only about their dunks, but about the other guy’s dunks as well and I think fans are really going to enjoy that.”

Last month, Brent Yarina of did a story ranking the top-five dunkers in the Big Ten this season, and had Williams No. 1 and Thompson No. 2. That’s a piece you can read here.

We put Friedman on the spot and asked him who he considers the best dunker in the conference. Does he concur with Yarina?

“Well, for me, I think I might have a different answer based on the situation,” he said. “I think Rodney is a better dunker in traffic; kind of in the flow of play. But I think in the open court or on the fast-break, Sam’s the better dunker. I think he gives you more of those ‘open-your-eyes’ kind of moments on the break and on the alley-oops.

“Most of Rodney’s dunks are two-handed. He’s a two-handed dunker and Sam’s a one-handed dunker, although he can go two hands. They both have their strengths when it comes to dunking; that’s why I said it depends on the situation. If you needed someone to drive down the lane and dunk on somebody, I might lean towards Rodney. If you’re talking about it’s a 2-on-1 fast-break, I would lean towards Sam.”

The 6-foot-7 Thompson, a sophomore wing from Chicago, keeps close tabs on his best dunks to say the least.

“Our producer who talked to Sam said Sam was a wonderful interview,” Friedman said. “Very fun to talk to. Has almost a photographic memory of all the great dunks that he’s had and can describe them in detail. So, I think there’s going to be a lot of interesting things for Buckeye fans and Sam Thompson fans on this Sunday’s show right after the Northwestern-Purdue game.”

Thompson: Best Dunker In OSU History?

Interestingly, after doing research on the subject, it’s clear Thompson is already atop the list of best dunkers in OSU history. That might sound surprising less than halfway through his collegiate career, but it’s true.

One of the players vying for second place would be Derek Anderson, who played two seasons in Columbus before transferring to Kentucky and eventually becoming a first-round NBA Draft pick.

Other than Thompson and Anderson – and a few other smaller guys like Mark Baker, Greg Simpson and Carter Scott – most of the best dunkers to come through OSU were post players. Greg Oden threw down monster dunks and he would have to be atop the list of big-man dunkers from Ohio State. Treg Lee and Herb Williams were known for some hammer dunks as well.

But Thompson is on a level all by himself as it pertains to high-risers that have suited up for the Buckeyes. He’s had a handful of unbelievable dunks off alley-oop passes thus far in his brief career – most of them off inbounds passes – but his best dunk might have occurred earlier this season at Purdue. Thompson took a pass near the low block and threw down a thunderous one-hander over 7-foot freshman center A.J. Hammons.

Anyway, everything The Journey does is top-notch material, so you’ll definitely want to tune in this Sunday.

‘The Journey’ Twitter Account

For those on Twitter, The Journey does a good job of “pealing back the layers of (their) production process” via their Twitter feed, per Friedman. So, if you’re a fan of the show, you should give them a follow: @BTNJourney.

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