Deon Thompson "wows" them in Vegas

During the course of the last several days their have been hundreds of "good" players showcasing their talents. But few players developed a buzz going around them like Deon Thompson. Kentucky assistant coach Reggie Hanson saw the big man play at least twice, once on his own and a second time when he brought Tubby Smith along for the ride.

During the course of the last several days their have been hundreds of “good” players showcasing their talents. There have been dozens of “great” players doing the same. But few players developed a buzz going around them like Deon Thompson. It seemed that wherever the big 6-foot-9, 255 lb center played, that all the big time Division I coaches were there to watch. Kentucky assistant coach Reggie Hanson saw the big man play at least twice, once on his own and a second time when he brought Tubby Smith along for the ride.

And the big guy delivered the goods during the game.

Kentucky’s interest in the young man was well-communicated throughout the tournament. But they may have to get in line, as the suitors will be lining up following his performance at the Reebok Big Time tournament.

“He has really improved his game over the last few months,” said west coast based recruiting analyst Tracy Pierson.

But is he worthy of this huge attention?

“Oh I think so,” added Scout.com’s Greg Hicks, “he has had a really great tournament. There has really been a buzz here this week about him. I think he fully deserves the attention he is getting here.”

A buzz indeed. Washington’s Lorenzo Romar attended several of his games, as did coaching staffs from Arizona State, UCLA, and USC among others. I saw him play three times and Arizona’s Lute Olson was there each time. The only big men that may have had more coaches attending multiple games may have been Greg Oden and Kevin Love.

Thompson does not have one of those sculpted, physically muscled and toned bodies. He has slimmed down from nearly 300 lbs to a solid 250 lbs. so he does have plenty of bulk and the weight loss has certainly improved his speed. Kentucky fans may be reminded of Nazr Mohammed when they see him.

“I only know of Nazr Mohammed a little,” Thompson said, “because he plays in the NBA. I know he came from Kentucky like Jamal Magloire. I have been told Kentucky does a good job of developing big men. But personally, I see myself more as an Ike Diogu or Rasheed Wallace. I like Wallace because he can play inside or outside. I admire that. But I would have a lot to learn to be that good. Maybe someday.”

Diogu was the Arizona State standout that led the Sun Devils last year in scoring and in rebounding before being drafted as the 9th overall pick by the Golden State Warriors, something that I am sure has been pointed out by the Sun Devils coaching staff.

“I have great respect for coach Rob Evans and his staff,” said Thompson, “they have recruited me from the beginning.”

But it was apparent he likes Kentucky too.

“Oh yes, I like Kentucky very much. They have a strong tradition and have won many championships. I have seen them play on television. I have rooted for them.”

Would Deon be bothered playing so far away from home?

“No, I do not mind at all,” Thompson said, “my mom’s sister lives in Louisville so I have family near there. That would not bother me at all.”

Thompson, as mentioned, has developed considerably over the last several months. He has very soft hands and is good at receiving the pass and creating his shot in the paint. But even more impressive may be his interior passing. His ability to pass adds a whole new dimension to his game.

“Passing is something I have been working on a lot. When the ball comes into me, I used to think ‘score’. Now I often think pass. When they try to double team me I work hard to find who’s open.”

Deon ThompsonThompson has a number of other weapons in his arsenal. He has a nice hook shot and is a solid rebounder on both ends of the floor. And he is a good shot blocker now and improving. “Blocking shots is another area I am working on a lot,” Thompson said.

So where does he need to improve?

“I still think I can improve in all areas really,” Thompson said, “I can always get better.”

So has Kentucky offered a scholarship or set up a visit?

”No, not yet, but I would like to visit very much and would be proud for them to offer me a scholarship to play. I would very much consider them.”


Before UK fans get too excited, we should all remember that Deon is a young guy only recently exposed to media attention at this level. Following my brief interview with him, I overheard another reporter covering another school interviewing Deon. Deon made very similar comments about the other school. At this point I think you’d have to say that UK’s involvement with him is encouraging but California is a long way away and there is a lot of time left in this recruitment.


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