By Josh Veltrie
LeBron James, Paul Pierce and Ryan Thompson. Most basketball fans immediately recognize the first two names as superstars in the NBA. Over the summer, senior Ryan Thompson, the versatile swingman on Rider’s basketball team, played with these stars while trying to improve his game at each of their skill academies.
The LeBron James Skills Academy and The Paul Pierce Skills Academy are meant for talented high school and college players across the country who are looking to take their game to the next level. It is also meant to help athletes play against NBA-level competition to see if they can make a living out of playing basketball.
“It’s great being able to play against the top guys in the country,” Thompson said. “Playing with LeBron James and Mo Williams speaks for itself.”
Greivis Vasquez of Maryland, E’Twaun Moore of Purdue and Edwin Ubiles from Siena were some of the players who attended The Paul Pierce Skills Academy with Thompson. He was not there for the infamous Jordan Crawford dunk on James, as that was the second week of the Academy and Thompson was there for the first.
“Listening to professionals like LeBron made me better mentally,” Thompson said. “He told us to slow down and let the game come to you. I feel like I came away from the camp a smarter player.”
He isn’t the first Thompson to attend high-profile camps while in college. Just two years ago, his older brother Jason Thompson went through the same process before having a very successful senior campaign, which resulted in being selected by the Sacramento Kings early in the first round of the NBA Draft.
“Jason told me to go into the camps being humble and just play my game,” Thompson said.
Ryan Thompson has been working out with his brother in order to prepare himself for his senior season. He is surrounded by a group of experienced players as the Broncs only lost three seniors last year to graduation. As for feeling pressure during his senior season to lead the Broncs, Ryan Thompson is extremely confident in his team.
“I really like the group of guys we have this year, and I know they will take a lot of the pressure off of me,” he said.
His senior campaign will kick off with a very tough non-conference schedule. The Broncs travel to Mississippi State, Virginia and Kentucky in a span of eight days. Rider will get to play in the prestigious Rupp Arena where Kentucky finds itself one of the preseason favorites to win the National Championship.
In order to be drafted in June, he will need to have a solid season and lead Rider in the postseason. Most mock draft sites have either Thompson or MAAC rival Ubiles being drafted in the second round. The player with the more successful season will end up with the upper hand come June.
“Being able to play in the NBA would be a great opportunity for me and my family,” Ryan Thompson said.