By Jordan Hall
Ryan Thompson’s extensive journey and aspiration to play with the best is still in progress. On June 24, the Rider grad’s goal of becoming an NBA draft pick fell short but the opportunity to accomplish his dream is still in sight.
Thompson completed an action-packed, whirlwind-like summer in which he traveled across the country, from city to city, showcasing his game. The former Bronc worked out for 12 NBA teams prior to the draft, played in both the Orlando and Las Vegas NBA summer leagues and has now accepted an invitation to the Utah Jazz training camp which starts on Sept. 28, hoping to gain a roster spot and sign an NBA contract with the Western Conference power.
Following a tremendous Portsmouth Invitational performance in April, Thompson’s draft status increased significantly and his name was on the radar of NBA personnel. This resulted in a busy yet beneficial summer for the 6’6” swingman, an experience he’ll never forget and isn’t finished with.
“It’s a great feeling to have all this NBA experience and I am thankful for all the situations I have been put in,” he said.
The first destination among many was a place he’s become quite familiar with: Sacramento. Thompson displayed his skills and strengths alongside other prospects for the Kings, the organization that drafted his older brother 12th overall in 2008. His first professional workout was in the books and the immense amount of travel had now begun.
Coming from a smaller, mid-major school, Thompson had the mindset of proving he belonged, no matter the size or name of the program he came from. Impressing throughout each workout, the versatile performer’s stock was steadily rising and he was receiving solid feedback from scouts, general managers and executives.
“They told me that I will be fine and a good player in the NBA. I just need to find a team that really likes me,” said Thompson.
Many believed the Rider product solidified himself in the draft while most experts viewed Thompson as a borderline late second-round pick to undrafted. He never heard his name called, but he remained upbeat.
Thompson certainly caught the eye of many teams during his lengthy and well-traveled preparation. The Boston Celtics offered him a position on their Orlando summer league squad while the Kings gave him a spot on their Las Vegas team. Drafted or undrafted, Thompson knew he would have this opportunity, a certainty that kept him confident.
“I wasn’t really worried because I knew I was going to get on a summer league team regardless,” he said.
Thompson exhibited a well-rounded game for both teams and portrayed his terrific basketball IQ while being assertive. He started two of the four contests he played in for the Celtics, averaging 9.3 points per game and dropped 13 points in his first act.
For the more talented and deeper Kings group, Thompson started three games, scoring 12 on his opening night.
The summer league serves as a tryout for undrafted players for all organizations. Two teams wanted to further assess Thompson — the Jazz and Kings. They sent him an invitation to their training camps and Thompson accepted Utah’s for multiple reasons.
“They told me they really liked me throughout the whole draft process and I like their coaching staff, players and the system they run,” he said.
The Jazz are known for developing young, undrafted players and reports have indicated that Head Coach Jerry Sloan and his staff are impressed with Thompson’s game. Utah has more roster space available, making his choice an easier one. According to Thompson, the training camp will include the entire Jazz team and will have the same feel as a preseason.
The Mount Laurel native received offers to play professionally in Israel, Turkey, Germany and a few other countries, but Thompson likes his current position.
Prior to draft night, nbadraft.net stated that Thompson would be the best free agent gem while Jerry Reynolds, the Kings’ director of player personnel, said, “I don’t think there’s any doubt that it looks like he belongs on an NBA roster, if not this year, at some point.”
He may not have done it the conventional way, but Thompson’s ultimate goal is within reach, and following camp, it may be reality.