Tennessee Point Guard Seeks Team
Once thought to be a mid-major steal, the Blackman High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) prospect has been discovered in the last few months by teams in recognized power conferences. Alabama is among those aware of Darius Thompson.
Inquiries have been fast and furious since Thompson de-committed from Vanderbilt in mid-February. A crowded depth chart with a returning point guard and a transfer to be eligible next year caused him to reconsider the January 19th decision to sign with the Commodores. "He is like every other kid, he wants to get on the floor in the first two years," explained Lonnie Thompson, father of the prized recruit and head basketball coach of Cumberland University.
Darius -- called "DT" or "D-Thomp" -- elaborated about his expectations as a freshman. "Hopefully," he said, "I want to come in and start but if not I want to come in and be under a really good point guard who teaches and helps me learn the college game so when I do get to become a good player or starter I will know what I'm doing."
Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, North Carolina State, Tennessee and Virginia have all contacted the Tennessee Class 3A "Mr. Basketball" finalist.
"It looks like the SEC or ACC is the direction he will be going," said the elder Thompson. Georgia Tech was a childhood favorite because of family ties from the Atlanta area.
Mid-major schools extended offers early. One almost received his pledge.
The father said, "Personally, I told every coach I had talked to that I wanted him to go to Butler. I thought it was a good fit. He was getting ready to go to Butler before Vanderbilt came into the picture. We were not prepared for these other schools."
Thompson chose to prolong the process in hopes a scholarship from a high-level Division I program would be forthcoming. "Coming into the early signing period, I wasn't sure I wanted to sign because I always felt I could play at schools bigger than were recruiting me," said Thompson. "I just knew if I kept working at it the big schools would offer. Luckily it happened for me."
The coaching veteran of 25-plus years did not foresee his son garnering attention from ACC and SEC schools. Thompson has visited three schools officially, Butler, Murray State, and Richmond. Tennessee is a likely choice for one of the two others yet to be announced. Coaching staffs from Alabama, Butler, Middle Tennessee State, Murray State, and Tennessee have been to Murfreesboro for home visits. Auburn and Virginia are next up with North Carolina State and Florida State possibly to join the crowd of contenders.
He was predisposed to possess a high basketball IQ having been around the game since he could crawl. The elder Thompson recalls one night breaking down game tape with the four-year old toddler intently gazing up at the screen sitting at his feet. "He made a comment saying, ‘Daddy this guy should have done this or that.' I can't recall the specifics but I asked him to repeat the words just to make sure I heard him correctly," said the astonished father. "I told my wife I don't know if his body is going to grow into be a basketball player but he certainly is going to have the mind of a basketball player."
Thompson intends to hire a personal trainer after the season to close the gap between the mature hardwood mind and the underdeveloped slight frame.
Anticipation and precision are skills defining extraordinary passers. Thompson exhibits both. A ritual growing up was studying every point guard deemed to be exceptional. "I like watching old school players – Magic Johnson and Pete Maravich as well as current players Chris Paul and Deron Williams," said Thompson. "Everything about basketball has to be passing. I just love to pass the ball. Most kids like to score but I am a big fan of passing the basketball."
Natural instinct and encouragement from his Dad to "place the ball out front where the player should be" has produced results. "He has always had that gift and the knack for where to place the ball," said Coach Thompson. "I tell coaches when they call back if you have big guys and guards that can run the floor, he will get them the ball."
The crafty playmaking combo guard derives extreme satisfaction from setting up teammates.
Blackman High School Head Coach Barry Wortman praises Thompson for understanding pace and having the ability to operate at varying speeds. "He is a very willing and good passer. He is extremely good at making teammates better," said the Columbus, Ohio native and Middle Tennessee State graduate. "He is good in transition at finding guys and in half-court too. He has all the leadership skills and intangibles you would want in a point guard. He is a great teammate and has been a phenomenal leader in our school."
Thompson can create his own shot and has an extra gear to explode to the rim. Some observers may be lulled to sleep by the quiet temperament but if he beats a defender off-the-dribble, a slam dunk is part of the shot repertoire. Thompson resembles current Golden State Warrior and former Davidson College star Stephen Curry in body type and style of play. He can swing between the point -- his preferred position -- and shooting guard.
His parents are both graduates of Middle Tennessee State University. They value education and preach academics as an avenue to becoming a well-rounded individual.
"I'm trying to get my son around a good coach and staff, people that care about the kid beyond basketball," said Coach Thompson. "When he leaves my house this summer, I want someone to continue to make him grow as a young man. I want him to be in a situation where he is going to get his degree not solely to become a pro player. If he becomes a pro player later that would be fine."
Thompson has established criteria to assist with the final decision. "First, I want to go to a school with a good business program," he said. "I want to go to a place where I feel good about the coaching staff and players and I'm a good fit in the system. I want to go to a place where I feel like while I'm under the coaching staff they are going to develop me in my four years into being a better player than I am now."
Thompson met Anthony Grant for the first time in February. "I really like Coach Grant and how hard they play as a team and the academics," he said.
Coach Thompson had crossed paths with Grant many years ago when the Alabama head coach was an assistant at Marshall. Tide Assistant John Brannen and Grant visited Sunday with the Thompson family. "He (Grant) told me a lot about his coaching philosophy, the school and academics," said the future accounting major. "He said I have the skill set to fit into his program."
Grant believes minutes are available for the 6-4, 175 pound prospect in the four-guard rotation. Thompson has a keen awareness of the assets a program would inherit if he selected their school. "I bring leadership and I'm a player who knows the game," said the three-year varsity starter. "I like to setup my teammates to make it easier for them. I'm a pass first type of guy but if I'm open I'm going to knock down the three-point shot."
Defensively, Thompson is a work in progress. "I'm a better off-the-ball defender," he said. "I have problems guarding little quick guards but when I'm guarding a guy my size or bigger I'm good."
According to Coach Wortman, "He is a good defender. He is long and has nice length. He understands positioning and uses the length to his advantage to contest shots. He is a great off-the-ball defender and very instinctive."
Off the court, the Murfreesboro native enjoys relaxing with family and friends. "I'm just a cool, calm kid," said Thompson. Sounds like the type of player any coach would welcome to handle the ball at the end of the game in a pressurized situation with the outcome on the line.
He will sift through all the offers in the next month and intends to ink a letter of intent during the spring signing period. "It's kind of stressful but I am excited about it," he said. "It's a new adventure to be going somewhere to play basketball for the next four years." Coaches from the ACC and SEC are hopeful the next adventure of "DT" originates on their campus.
Finalist for TSSAA Class 3A "Mr. Basketball"
Blackman High School 2012-13 record 30-1
Lost in TSSAA Class 3A Quarterfinals
Senior Season Stats
3-PT FG% 42.4
Per game – 6.4 assists, 2.3 steals, 3.6 rebounds, .7 blocks, 2.2 turnovers
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