Chants of “Ja-son Thomp-son” roared through the Wachovia Center as one King left his throne, returning to the East Coast to put on a show for a “home crowd” once again.
On Nov. 3, ’08 graduate Jason Thompson traveled with the Sacramento Kings to take on the Philadelphia 76ers while his former cheering section came to root him on in his fourth game as a professional basketball player.
Thompson is looking like a top contender as only a rookie. Granted, he is currently not a starter, but play of this stature could earn him a starting position. His aggressiveness shows he was a clutch first-round pick for the Kings, and it looks as though he is already accustomed to the professional aspect of the game.
“It was great just to have all the love and support that I get at Rider,” Thompson said. “For people to take the drive and stay longer for me to come out here, it’s a good feeling.”
Thompson came off the bench for 30 minutes to compile a team-high 17 points, going 8-12 from the field, collecting six rebounds and a team-high five assists.
Thompson certainly gave his fan club a reason to cheer. The rookie subbed into the game, putting two on the board with 48 seconds left in the first, closing the Kings’ deficit to 12.
In the second quarter, Thompson was on the court for just under five minutes, collecting four points from two jump shots along with one rebound for Sacramento. The Kings entered the half down 33-25.
After the start of the second half, Thompson subbed in with 10 minutes left before putting up four consecutive points for the Kings. He later added another point off of a free throw and then assisted another two points after grabbing a rebound to pass up-court. At the conclusion of the third quarter, Thompson led Sacramento in just the third quarter with five points and two assists.
Thompson entered the fourth quarter with eight minutes remaining. He was able to show his Rider and South Jersey fans a piece of his old flair with a rebound for the Kings, dunking for two more points. He added yet another dunk to the Kings’ losing score of 122-87 with a minute left in regulation. Thompson finished the quarter with another two points before the 76ers claimed their second win.
“It felt real good tonight,” Thompson said. “I mean it wasn’t the prettiest game, but just to have support it feels real good.”
After five career games, Thompson has averaged over 24 minutes of play with a .588 field goal percentage, going 30 for 51. He has also made 8-13 free throws while averaging 6.8 rebounds, .6 blocks, .6 steals and 13.6 points a game. Thompson’s playing time represents a team-high out-producing starter Mikki Moore.
“He’s been great,” Kings coach Reggie Theus said to Rider Sports Information. “He has the ability to become a great power forward in this league. His ability, his nose for the ball. He plays hard. He’s not afraid. He puts his body in there. He’s strong and quick around the basket. I’ve also played him at some small forward. He’s a young player who’s not affected about where he is and what he’s doing. That’s a special characteristic.”
Not only does Theus recognize his power forward’s success, but many reviewers feel Thompson is a rookie to be reckoned with beyond the Kings’ offense.
“He might have been No. 1 in these rankings [I have made] if the Kings were not so awful,” said reporter David Thorpe in his analysis of the Rookie Watch on ESPN.com. “That is how good he has been. I have always stressed to college coaches and pro scouts that toughness is a talent. Well, this young man from Rider University is the best kind of tough. He does everything with strength and lacks any kind of negative baggage often associated with the toughest guys. He reminds me a lot of Al Horford, and that is a very good thing.”
Thompson’s performance was above par compared to average rookie stature as he played with poise and hustle. If he continues to play like this, it will likely only be a matter of time until the words probable starter show up next to his name on the roster.
“It’s good,” Thompson said. “I’m just learning each day. I just have to take it one day at a time and move on from there. I mean, I’m a rookie, so I have to learn. Hopefully as the season continues I’ll eventually be a starter and keep moving on from there.”