By Jordan Hall
Junior standout Ryan Thompson was no longer the “little brother” this season. In fact, his overall game was far from little as he posted career highs across the board, increasing his NBA prospect status and guiding Rider to another winning campaign.
After the departure of older brother Jason Thompson, the ’08-’09 Broncs were now Ryan’s team, and he didn’t disappoint. The 6’6” swingman set career bests in points per game (18), rebounds (6.5), steals (1.8) and free-throw percentage (.77) while leading Rider to a 19-13 overall record and a third-place finish in the MAAC.
When Jason was a Bronc, he was double-teamed almost every contest; at times this would free up Ryan for open looks, and he converted at a tremendous percentage. Ryan shot an impressive 54 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc his sophomore season, taking full advantage of the open shots.
With these numbers, NBA scouts questioned, “Could he do it again without his brother?” Ryan answered that to perfection, hitting 51 percent of his field goal attempts and 42 percent from three-point range, which ranked second in the conference, and dismissing any doubts quite easily.
Another great aspect to Ryan’s game is his ability to take over and come through in defining moments and clutch situations. The Lenape High School product led Rider in the scoring column for 21 contests, poured in 11 20-plus-point games and averaged 28.5 ppg during the MAAC tournament.
Ryan simply has a knack for late-game situations. He had the game-winning buckets against Siena and Loyola, the go-ahead layup and free throw with 11.8 seconds remaining against Lehigh, and when trailing by 15 with nine minutes left, Ryan scored 14 of his 25 points in the closing moments to beat Lafayette.
The Mount Laurel native didn’t produce impressive numbers two years in a row by luck. He did so by challenging himself with top-notch competition and hard work year round. At the finish of his sophomore year, Ryan competed at some of the most prized summer camps in the nation. He took part in the Lebron James and Paul Pierce skill academies, where he played with top college players, such as All-American guards Stephen Curry of Davidson, James Harden of Arizona State and Big East star Sam Young of Pittsburgh.
“The camps showed me what it was like at the next level, and it was a lot of physical play,” he said. “I learned a lot when I went out to the camps.”
Ryan, who was rewarded with a First Team All-MAAC selection, wasn’t just one of the elite players in the conference; he transformed into one of the premier mid-major players in the country.
Ryan blossomed into a nationally known performer this season, gaining much deserved respect credited to his accolades. He was ranked as one of the preseason’s top 30 swingmen in the country by CBSSports.com, a top 10 mid-major player by thehoopsreport.com, and named a mid-major All-American by collegeinsider.com. To cap off his résumé, draftexpress.com has projected him to be drafted in the second round of the 2010 NBA draft.
The potential prospect knows of the attention and admits that he does think about it, but he is curently thinking about the here and now.
“When people ask me about it a lot, I start to think about it, but I want to focus on next season as much as I can,” Ryan said.
Ryan, the competitor that he is, still has collegiate goals that he desires to achieve.
“The top one is to win the MAAC and go to the NCAA tournament,” he said. “And then from there, try to make some noise in the tournament.”
A significant event during the season occured when Head Coach Tommy Dempsey decided to move his leading scorer from the wing to the point guard position, and it paid dividends during the season and for Ryan’s future.
“It helped our team because not only did he thrive but so did Justin [Robinson] playing off the ball,” Dempsey said. “For Ryan’s future, rather than to project or think he can play the point, scouts could actually watch him play the position.”
A professional scout told Brendan Prunty of the Star-Ledger that “the switch can only make him better and more valuable to his [future] team.”
The sky is the limit for the versatile guard, and this summer, he plans to work harder by returning to the camps he already attended and competing at a couple more. Scouts love the potential he has, especially his long and athletic frame, to go along with his exceptional skills and basketball smarts. Ryan is a true do-it-all type player, which bodes well for the Broncs and for his own ability to play at the next level.
“[Ryan] tends to let things come to him,” according to draftexpress.com. “He has a very high basketball IQ and really knows how to pick his spots and find open seams in defenses. Whether it’s spotting up for open looks from the perimeter, driving the ball to the basket going left or right, getting to the free throw line or even posting up at times, [Ryan] does a little bit of everything.”
The hype for the young man’s senior season will be huge. Expect NBA scouts to file into Alumni Gym on a consistent basis, but for Ryan, the focus is on the present: the future will come later.