Thompson Back in the Game

Tuesday was a big day for Sam Thompson. Sidelined near the start of his junior basketball season at Whitney Young (IL) High School with an ankle injury, the 6-foot-7 wing would return in time for the Dolphins' run at back-to-back Illinois Class 4A State Championships – a run that fell just short, at the hands of Chicago Simeon High School in the state title game.

Since then, Thompson has spent the past six weeks allowing his ankle to fully heal, before rejoining his AAU team, the living highlight reel that is Mac Irvin Fire.

So what made Tuesday so special? It was the first time since his season ended March 20 that he set foot on a basketball court for a full-speed workout.

"Obviously my skills were a little bit rusty, but I feel a lot better physically," said Thompson, whose ankle is now essentially 100-percent healthy. "This is the best physical condition I've been in since early January."

It's going to be a busy summer for the ultra-athletic small forward prospect, who is among the most highly-recruited players at his position in the country. Starting  with a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League event in Houston from May 14-16, Thompson will again take the court with the Fire.

It will be his first AAU action of a season already in full-swing, and he's understandably eager to get started.

"It has been tough," Thompson said, of the prolonged wait. "It's been very tough, especially coming off the loss in the state championship game. But it's what I had to do. It was better for me in the long run. I had to protect my body."

Though he may have been absent from the court in recent weeks, his recruitment never slowed down. Thompson now maintains a list of seven possible college destinations – Illinois, Oregon State, Ohio State, Florida, Kansas, Georgetown and Marquette. All but Kansas, Georgetown and Marquette have offered scholarships to date, with the latter two being relative newcomers to his recruitment.

Illinois, Oregon State, Ohio State and Florida have been recruiting him the longest, Thompson noted, but every school on his list now appears to be devoting equal time to landing the services of's #7 SF prospect.

In addition to AAU events, Thompson will likely attend Bill Self's annual Elite Camp in early June – an event which typically features some of the most talented prospects in the country.

The camp environment is one he enjoys immensely, Thompson said.

"Whenever I go out on the court, I want to be the best player I can be," he explained. "I want to be better than other good players. It's always fun to go up against other top players at my position and from around the country, and see where I stack up."

Here's what Thompson had to say Tuesday about the Kansas program and Head Coach Bill Self:

"First and foremost, I think that they're a winning program. Wherever I go I want to have a chance to win championships. Kansas has been a winning program for decades. My second impression is that they always produce players. If you look at the next level right now, you have all kinds of Kansas alumni playing, still in the playoffs."

"Kansas, Coach Self, they prepare players for the next level, and they win."

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