They entered the 2009-2010 with lofty goals, including a chance at back-to-back Illinois Class 4A state championships. But an ankle injury sidelined Thompson following their Jan. 9 loss to Muskegon Heights High School, and the Dolphins slammed full-force into the proverbial "rough patch."
During the next three months, with the central cog in their machine on
the bench, Whitney Young would drop five more games – and all Thompson
could do was watch.
"That was very tough," the four-star prospect said. "Especially because
my team was struggling. That's probably the worst feeling in basketball
is having to watch your team struggle when there's nothing you can do
But Thompson would eventually return. The Dolphins responded by making
a late season surge to the state championship game, including a
dramatic win over rival Waukegan High School – and Illinois signee
Jereme Richmond – in the semi-finals.
What makes his presence so valuable to the team? Plenty, said Dolphins
head coach Tyrone Slaughter, but it all starts on the defensive end.
With his natural length and athleticism, Thompson is able to defend all
five positions on the floor – a talent Slaughter said he would take
with him to the college level.
"I think when you talk about Sam, you have to kind of start off talking
about his incredible athleticism, his ability to make plays in so many
different ways," Slaughter explained.
Diligent work in the gym has translated into an uptick in Thompson's
offensive skills as well. An above-average ball handler with a
developing jump shot, the Dolphins utilized him primarily in the post,
but Slaughter said that would change dramatically next season.
"Next year we're going to allow him to open his game up and play all
the way out," he said. "His ability to get to the basket and dunk the
basketball, handle the ball off the dribble, those are some of the many
strengths of his and I think there's more to come."
A player of Thompson's ability can write his own ticket to essentially
any college program in the country, but he's been taking his
recruitment slowly. In October, his list stood at 10 schools – Oregon
State, Ohio State, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas,
Illinois, Miami and Virginia Tech.
After putting thoughts of recruiting and college basketball aside
during the season, Scout.com's #7 small forward prospect recently
trimmed his list in a big way.
"I narrowed my school list down to five," Thompson said. "Ohio State,
Florida, Oregon State, Illinois and Kentucky. Unless something happens
I think it's going to be one of those five. It's been a fun experience
getting to know the coaches and the programs."
A commitment could theoretically happen at any time after the AAU
season, he added, but right now he's just looking forward to getting
back on the court with his team – Mac Irvin Fire – in three weeks.
"Especially coming off of a loss (in the state title game), I'm really
eager to get back on the court and try to prove myself nationally,"
Thompson said. "It's gonna be fun."
Sam Thompson Scout.com Profile
Thompson Bounces Back
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