He may be Boise State men's basketball coach Leon Rice's go-to man off the bench, but Mikey Thompson hardly spends much time these days getting settled into his seat.
Thompson, a redshirt freshman guard, is averaging 33.8 minutes per game in Mountain West play - second on the team - and has started the past four games. While Rice likes Thompson coming off the bench for "instant offense," Thompson is relishing his boost in court time.
"It's been a blessing, I would try to pick up the pace off the bench, but now I've been trying to do that from the opening tip," Thompson said.
The Broncos (16-7, 4-5 in the Mountain West) visit New Mexico (21-4, 8-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ROOT.
In his four starts, Thompson is averaging 11.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game and has been off the floor a total of 17 minutes.
Rice said Thompson's nine rebounds in a win over UNLV on Feb. 2 "might have been the difference." In the Broncos' next contest, a 63-62 loss at San Diego State, Thompson was 4-for-5 on 3-pointers. The last put Boise State ahead until the final seconds.
"He's done a great job stepping up for us," junior guard Jeff Elorriaga said. "He brings another scoring element that we needed, and he's given us some tough baskets."
Rice was effusive in his praise for the 6-foot-3 point guard, who has averaged 9.1 points per game this season.
By comparison, Derrick Marks averaged 9.0 points in his first 21 games last season, and like Thompson, broke into the starting lineup in Mountain West play.
"The biggest thing I like about Mikey is his upside," Rice said. "He's doing great things now, but I just see a kid that's going to be so much better in two years. I just think the sky's the limit for him."
Though Thompson has proven himself to be an intriguing talent, he redshirted last season while four other guards played as true freshmen.
"It was a hard decision, because he could've helped us," Rice said. "When I took this job, the biggest thing I wanted to do was make decisions long term, not the quick fix. The decisions like a Mikey Thompson redshirt, when he's a junior and a senior he could be one of the best players in the Mountain West."
Making the transition from Las Vegas high school standout to spending time as the sharpest-dressed man on the end of the bench wasn't exactly easy, but Thompson is seeing the dividends paying off this season.
"I knew I could have helped us win last season, but it's actually been great for me - it really helped me prepare for the speed of college, let me get stronger in the weight room, too," Thompson said.
As he has let his play do most of his speaking, Thompson has one more aspect of his game he wants to improve to become a reliable point guard.
"I'm pretty quiet," Thompson said. "I've got to be more vocal, tell guys where to go. Once I get comfortable, I can be that way, so I'm getting there."
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn