By Carolo Pascale and Jake Tiger
Rider men’s basketball legend and former NBA Draft lottery selection ‘08 Jason Thompson announced his retirement from professional basketball on Oct. 3, as well as his decision to join the Rider men’s basketball’s staff as a special assistant to the head coach.
“As I reflect on my career, Rider University has done so much for me both on and off the court – academically and through the basketball program,” said Thompson in a press release from Rider Athletics.
Thompson’s 13-year professional career began in 2008 when he was drafted by the Sacramento Kings, playing there for seven seasons and becoming the longest tenured player in the franchise’s history since moving to Sacramento, California in 1985.
Thompson later went on to play for the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors in the NBA, before heading overseas to play for the Shandong Golden Stars, Sichuan Blue Whales, Shanghai Sharks and Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association and the Turkish club Fenerbahce of the EuroLeague.
“Rider University has helped me on the court to become a 13-year pro and off-the-court to start the Jason Thompson Foundation, a leadership program, and give back to the community,” said Thompson. “Even though I am retiring, I will not be leaving the game of basketball. I can’t think of a better way to still be around the game than by coming back to Rider University with Head Coach Kevin Baggett, who was an assistant coach when I played. I’m excited to be here and looking forward to taking the next steps into my new journey.”
In 2007-08, his final season at Rider, Thompson averaged 20.4 points per game on 56% shooting, 12.1 rebounds per game and totaling 91 blocks, a Rider single-season record that is yet to be eclipsed. He won Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Player of the Year for his distinguished efforts.
That same season, Thompson led the Broncs to the MAAC Tournament finals, where they were defeated 74-53 by Siena.
In a 2008 Rider News article, Rider Athletic Director and former men’s basketball Head Coach Don Harnum said “We thought he was going to be a really good player and we were really happy when we got him, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted this.”
The Camden, New Jersey native ended his collegiate career as Rider’s all-time leading rebounder and third all-time leading scorer. His No. 1 jersey is just one of two jerseys retired in Alumni Gym, the other being the No. 4 jersey of ‘93 Darrick Suber. In 2016, Thompson was a first-ballot Rider Athletics Hall of Fame inductee.
“Since his graduation and through all of his professional success, Jason has remained close to the program and supported us both as a mentor to our student-athletes and with his contributions to help build our practice facility and renovate our locker rooms and offices,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett.
Baggett began his Rider coaching career in 2006, mentoring Thompson throughout his junior and senior seasons.
“In this next phase of his career, we’re thrilled to have him back in the program. The experience and knowledge he’ll be able to share with our players is invaluable,” said Baggett.
Thompson will now have the opportunity to become a mentor at his alma mater, as he joins a deep and talented team with MAAC Championship aspirations.