By David Pavlak
In 2008, Rider’s basketball standout, Jason Thompson, had his dream come true of playing in the NBA when the Sacramento Kings selected him as the 12th overall pick in the NBA lottery draft. His hard work on the court has translated into a new five-year, $30 million contract.
Even though Thompson spends a majority of his year in California, he has never forgotten his roots back at Rider and tries to make it a point to come back and visit friends, family and teammates whenever possible, while still keeping up with the hectic schedule demanded of professional athletes.
Thompson has spent some time at Rider, visiting children who were attending a basketball camp held on campus.
“I think it’s very important,” Thompson said. “Sometimes when people find success they never come back to where their roots were. I was a guy that went to Rider for four years, a small school, but [I] was from the area. It’s always good to give back and try to give a positive message to the kids in the area who would come see me when I was playing in college that with hard work and the right people, your dream can come true.”
Thompson credits his giving back to the fact that he was a graduate of Rider.
“Especially for me, it’s not like I was ‘one-and-done’ or anything like that,” Thompson said. “I was [at Rider] for four years and had a lot of success here. Hopefully, one day I get to cut the ribbon when we can get an arena built at Rider.”
Rider’s men’s basketball Head Coach Kevin Baggett appreciates the fact that Thompson has never forgotten where it all started for him and makes an effort to come and give back.
“The thing I love and respect about Jason is that he continues to stay humble and remembers his roots [and] where it all started,” Baggett said. “Being in the NBA, people are always pooling for [his] time, so I really appreciate Jason taking time out of his schedule to come back and speak to the kids at our basketball camps. He is truly a role model for those kids.”
Even though he may be home in the offseason, his schedule doesn’t slow down.
“I have a condo out in Philly, so I have my trainer and I have my chef,” Thompson said. “I’m always working out twice a day and lifting at night. I eat healthy, three or four times a day. Then I do some things business-wise like appearances or things for my Jason Thompson Foundation or just other events.”
Between games, practices and appearances, Thompson has also started the Jason Thompson Foundation, a charity that has paired up with the American Heart Association to shed light on and help find answers to serious health questions. The idea came to him after Thompson experienced a death in his family.
“I’m trying to raise money and [help] learn from the exact type of treatment that [my cousin] could have had,” Thompson said. “We raise money and have events. We had bowling and I was a guest bartender where we raised money for the foundation. I go to different schools and talk to them about my story and different things like that, so I’ve been busy on and off the court.”
Thompson admitted he does take a couple of weeks off after the season to let his body rest and relax.
“I definitely take two weeks off,” Thompson said. “Part of that is vacation and part of it is traveling and coming back home. It’s just to rest your body because it is a long season. Even though it was 66 games last year because of the lockout, the games were still compact and it felt like an 82-game season.”
Thompson keeps his training local in the offseason.
“I train with my brother and some other professional guys,” Thompson said. “There are some Philly guys out here like Hakim Warrick and Wayne Ellington. Rip Hamilton also comes to Philly to work out sometimes. For the most part though, it is my brother and some overseas guys and some Kings coaches who come to Philly gyms for a week and work me out as well.”
Thompson finished the year averaging nine points, nearly seven rebounds and one assist per game in the condensed NBA season. Thompson also finished the season with 15 double-doubles, at one point stringing together five in a row.
“For me, [my] field goal percentage was high and just being consistent and not injured [was important],” Thompson said. “I had stretches where I was averaging 21 points and 15 rebounds. It was good; it showed flashes of what I can do if I stay healthy.”
He shot 53.5 percent from the field last year, his best field goal percentage since the 2010-11 season.
Baggett was glad that Thompson was rewarded for his hard work on the court with a new contract by the Kings.
“I am very happy for Jason and the new contract that he recently signed,” he said. “It is well deserved for someone who works as hard as Jason does.”
Contact David Pavlak at email@example.com