Thompson Talks About The Path To UNC

The North Carolina Tar Heels got a commitment from the nation's No. 22 prospect this week. Deon Thompson talks about his recruitment, his decision and just how far he came from spring to summer.

There was a time when Deon Thompson, Torrance (Calif.) High's 6-foot-8 center wasn't the commodity he is today. As early as July, there was some doubt if he would ascend to the status he current is afforded as the No. 22 prospect in the land.

Thompson, by his own admission, didn't play well at Reebok ABCD Camp and that meant it was time for a change in philosophy.

"I did not have a good ABCD Camp," Thompson said. "I wasn't getting the ball. I didn't feel like playing because I wasn't getting the ball. That was bad. After it was over I had a real good talk with my high school and AAU coach and I realized that I had to do some things differently if I was going to be a big time player."

Fourteen days later when Thompson arrived in Las Vegas for the Big Time, even his AAU teammates noticed a difference in his approach to the game.

"Going into Vegas my head was on right. I was focused. My teammates thought something was wrong with me. I wasn't out late, I was up [in my room] getting rest. They kept asking me if I was all right."

Thompson was more than all right. By the end of the tournament his crowds were including head coaches from UCLA, UNC, Kentucky, Arizona State and Connecticut. He might not have known it yet, but the chase was on.

Having attended the game where the proverbial "light went on" with Thompson, one can speak first hand of the transformation. Against Cole Aldrich and the Minnesota Magic, Thompson simply rose to the challenge, put fouls on Aldrich and went to work. The game provided him with the confidence he needed to mature as a prospect.

"(North Carolina was) coming to see Cole and a lot of people were there. Coach Williams noticed me and I was playing good."

Coast to coast, in a matter of days, Thompson was the toast of the town. The big man elevated his stock as much as anyone we saw last summer. Programs that had been loosely keeping tabs on him were now scrambling to establish a relationship. With a month before official visits began, there was much to do and much for Thompson to learn about several programs.

Thompson began taking official and unofficial visits. Rumors were flying that he was leaning to UCLA, then an unofficial to Kentucky (the eventual runner-up) became message board fodder and many felt the Wildcats led.

In speaking with Thompson over the course of his recruitment, you always got the sense that he was proud of where his game came from and that playing time was going to be a major factor. Eventually, UNC showed him they had a real need for a kid his size.

"The perfect situation is to come in and play and hopefully start because there's a chance. I just want to play and be part of the team and contribute."

Thompson received an early week visit from Roy Williams that set his mind at ease. He chatted with his mom after the visit and it wasn't too long after that he picked up the phone late Tuesday night and gave the commitment to the Tar Heels.

"I liked UNC because of how they played, but I didn't think they were a leader. The more times I talked to Coach Williams, it just kept getting better."

Speaking of better, UNC's recruiting class now has the nation's top ranked point guard, top ranked shooting guard and No. 3 center. Plus, in-state scoring wing William Graves is aboard as Williams' first commitment earned from an in-state player since taking the job.

Thompson says he's not done and hasn't reached his potential. As a pre-senior year bloomer, the hype machine never got cranked up for him but don't think for a second he's not a big time prospect. He's merely a guy who took a little longer to figure it all out but when he did, college basketball's elite quickly took notice.

Inside Carolina Top Stories