Sam Thompson Ready For Spotlight

Most high school basketball stars are nationally recognized and accustomed to the media spotlight early in their careers. They have colleges clamoring for their services, and some make early commitments. Whitney Young's Sam Thompson has been sheltered from much of the hype and attention, so the upcoming junior is just now breaking into the media spotlight.

Whitney Young won the Illinois big school state championship last winter, and they are loaded again this season. One of their up and coming superstars is junior Sam Thompson, a 6'-6" wing player.

Sunday at the Illinois team shootout was the first time Thompson has been available for most media to interview. His dad is a lawyer and mom a psychologist, and they have kept him focused on his academics and protected him from the media circus that surrounds most top players.

Thompson has also been brought along slowly at Whitney Young, which has numerous college prospects on its roster and can often afford to sit younger players. But now is his time to shine, and he is taking advantage of the opportunity.

Unfortunately, he was approached for an interview right after a big loss to Peoria Central Sunday at the Ubben basketball complex. His discouragement with the result reduced his enthusiasm for talking about himself.

"We didn't come out with the energy we needed. The spark just wasn't there. We were tired, but that's still no excuse. We didn't play with intensity."

Whitney Young defeated Gary Lew Wallace easily earlier in the day, but Thompson chose to focus on the latter result.

"You're only as good as your last game."

A.J. Johnson, a prominent senior guard committed to Purdue, was injured and unavailable for the shootout. So some younger players had to take on a bigger load. But Thompson wasn't looking for excuses.

"No, but we're supposed to go out on the road and at least, no matter who we come down with, we play hard. We didn't do that."

Thompson opened up a little when asked about his expanded role this season.

"I'm excited right now. It's gonna be a challenge, but we'll see how it all plays out. I'm looking forward to it. I'm not really telling you anything right now because I'm a little upset about the last game."

Thompson was a reserve most of his sophomore year, but he became a starter during their state tournament run when Johnson went down. His athleticism and aggressiveness were obvious. He admitted he came into his own at that time.

"Yeah. When A.J. got injured, I really had no choice. I did whatever I could to help my team win and help my seniors go out on a high note."

Now warming to the task, Thompson listed his best attributes as a basketball player.

"Size, athleticism, versatility. I'm taller than most of the guards and jump higher. I'm faster than most and am able to get into the lane. I can shoot the trey ball. I've improved my ball skills and passing, breaking my man down. It's all a process of just getting better.

"I have a midrange game also. You didn't get to see it much this game. I've worked on that a lot."

Thompson is quite slender, one of his only drawbacks at this point. But he is a hard worker who wants to make improvements. He listed the things he is trying to develop.

"My strength, my all-around ball skills, my all-around guard skills. My shooting, I do well now but I want to continue to get better. Everything I do on the basketball court."

He is in no hurry to decide on a college.

"I have no special interests. I haven't started looking at colleges at all. I expect to start doing that this summer or next summer and see where it goes from there."

Thompson also is uncertain as to a future college major, but he has some ideas.

"Something in finance or econ maybe. Maybe the business field. I don't know."

Thompson has explosive ability that needs to be harnessed and allowed to mature. With his new starting status at Whitney Young plus his AAU experiences with the Mac Irvin Fire 16 and under team this summer, his game will likely improve markedly. He may have been sheltered up to now, but those days may be about over.

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