Summer Hoops

by Charles Guthrie

Two trips to Lebron James King’s Academy, Amare Stoudemire’s Basketball Camp, and the 31st annual Pete Newell Big Man Camp.

That’s a heck of a summer vacation.

These were the high-profiled summer basketball camps that senior power forward Jason Thompson was invited to attend this summer.

Thompson’s summer basketball tour started off in early June with his first of two visits to Lebron James’ camp at the University of Akron in Ohio.

Lebron James has had an outstanding NBA career since coming right out of high school. The Cleveland Cavaliers star has averaged over 26 points per game for his career including three all-star appearances, and a three time All-NBA selection.

James had a historic performance in game five of the Eastern Conference finals this June scoring 29 of the team’s last 30 points to propel them to victory.

At this Nike-sponsored event, the college players coached the high school students during the day and then played five-on-five pickup games at night.

These weren’t just your average pickup games that you play in the park with some friends. The Rider big man played with and against Lebron James, sophomore guard for North Carolina Ty Lawson, and senior guard for Michigan State Drew Neitzel.

In his spare time, Thompson had a chance to interact with King James and was given some solid basketball advice.

“Lebron told me it doesn’t matter what school you go to,” Thompson said. “You just have to do what you need to do and the scouts will find you soon enough.”

The next stop on the Thompson basketball camp tour was to the Amare Stoudemire Basketball Camp in Mesa, Ariz.

Amare Stoudemire is another basketball player that was able to make the successful leap from high school to the pro’s. He was the 2003 Rookie of the Year, two-time all-star, a first team All-NBA member in 2007, and a second team member in 2005.

This camp, just like at the James camp, Thompson joined other college standouts such as seven-foot Stanford sophomore forward Brook Lopez, and Indiana’s standout senior forward D.J. White. The college guys advised the high schoolers during the day and then play pickup games at night.

The Rider star’s roommate situation was also pretty interesting. College basketball fans know his roommate pretty well because it was none other than the potential lottery pick in next year’s draft out of Georgetown University, center Roy Hibbert.

That’s quite a bit of talent to put in one room. Hibbert was asked to play with the USA Men’s Basketball Team in the Pan-American games, and Thompson was one of only three division I players to average 20 points and 10 rebounds last year.

The Rider senior had a chance to talk basketball with NBA all-star Stoudemire and received some compliments along with some tips from a fellow big man.

“Amare told me that he liked my game,” Thompson said. “He told me not to listen to all the praise, just to keep working hard and keep trying to improve my game every day.”

After a second trip to James’ camp, it was then off to Las Vegas for the 31st annual Pete Newell Big Man Camp. This camp differed from the other camps because it was strictly for big men.

Scouts were present at the event, and watched Thompson play other talent in games and drills. He was able to talk to one scout who was quite impressed with his play.

“He said to me that I was one of the best big men at the camp,” Thompson said. “He just wanted me to keep working hard and not to worry about all the guys fouling me down low.”

Thompson has always made big news in the MAAC, but after last year’s monster season, he started to think about elevating his game to the next level.

“These camps were a chance for me to get some national exposure,” he said. “My stock has risen, no longer just locally and in the MAAC, but now throughout the country.”

The summer camps have been a great experience for Thompson, but he realizes this is a big year for him. He has high expectations coming into his senior year and he’s ready to take this team to the big dance.

“I definitely had a pretty good three years here at Rider,” Thompson said. “I played well, but I want to play better and be able to take my team to the championship.”

The basketball season starts on Nov. 10 when the team travels to Kentucky to play Murray State at seven p.m.

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