STANFORD -- It turns out Michigan sharpshooter Kate Thompson draws defenders the way she does flies.
Anyone who has seen her shoot the 3 understands why Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer promised to not leave Thompson alone when the top-seeded Cardinal plays Michigan in the NCAA second round Tuesday night at Maples Pavilion.
The 6-foot-4 Thompson scored 17 points to lead the eighth-seeded Wolverines (22-10) past Villanova in the opening round Sunday.
But the flies' part takes some explaining. Not that Thompson, a senior majoring in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, would volunteer any details. One of the country's best 3-point shooters prefers talking about teammates than anything she might be doing.
The insects came into focus last summer when Thompson spent hours upon hours in the gym to improve her game while also taking summer classes for her pre-medicine track.
"When she wasn't in the gym working on her game she was in the lab," Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "She had to do a fly experiment all summer long. She'd bring me these flies and we'd talk about flies. Then she'd be back in the gym."
Barnes Arico doesn't know the extent of the research but there you have it. The first-year Michigan coach has spent more time trying to help Thompson find balance in her life than pushing her to excel.
"She's probably going to kill me for saying this but she got a boyfriend and I told her she doesn't have any time for that," Barnes Arico said. "I said, "Kate, pre-med and basketball."
A week ago the Minnesota player who plans to go to medical school after graduation had an important chemistry exam and got invited to compete in a men's 3-point shooting contest.
She also was preparing for the NCAA tournament where the Wolverines have yet to reach the Sweet 16. Thompson let the shooting contest stress her out.
"Well coach, I need to get up 1,000 shots a day," she said.
"If you miss every shoot, it really does not matter," Barnes Arico reminded her.
"A part of my job is for her to relax and just enjoy the moment and realize that it is OK not to be perfect every time," the coach said.
Point guard Jenny Ryan also is willing to speak up for the quiet Thompson, who didn't start until this season. Their voyage began as freshmen roommates.
"There was one practice where I tried to figure out where Kate catches the ball best to shoot at and she didn't miss," Ryan recalled. "I think from that day forward I just know where Kate likes the ball and knowing you have someone that is money from that far out is unbelievable. Against Michigan State she hit one from center court and the rest of the world might laugh but it's just Kate to us."
"Joslyn absolutely wants to play," VanDerveer said. "She doesn't care what position. She doesn't care who she has to guard. She just wants to be out there. She hates coming out of a game. Sometimes we'll be up by 20 and she hates subbing out."
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.