The Campaign

Riderís Thompson Now a King

Courtesy: Rider Sports Information
Release: June 26, 2008
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Jason Thompson
Courtesy: Peter G. Borg (Rider University)

Rider’s Thompson Now a King

MARLTON, NJóRider University graduate Jason Thompson of Mt. Laurel was the 12th player selected in the first round of the National Basketball Association draft by the Sacramento Kings

Thursday evening. “I was told I would be a solid first round pick, but I had no idea it would be a lottery pick,” Thompson said. “My agent got a text message from them saying congratulations, but I didn’t believe it. We still had to wait the five minutes until they said it. Five minutes isn’t a long time, but it sure seemed like a long time tonight.”

A large group of family, friends and media joined Thompson in celebration Thursday night at Champps Restaurant in Marlton near the Thompson home following the selection.

“I’ve been blessed with the people that have helped me with this process,” Thompson said. “All my coaches are here, and they get as much credit as I do. Obviously they helped me a great deal with my game.”

During the draft show Thompson was alone with his parents, brother and Rider teammate Ryan, and his agent. “I was moving around a lot. I couldn’t sit still,” Thompson said. “I didn’t know how I was going to feel. I shed a few tears; I was in shock for a while, real silent for a little bit, reminiscing how much hard work it took to get here. Now that it is here I have to move on, go back to Cali.”

“Jason is truly one of the best players in the country,” said Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey. “I’ve said that for the past two years and it is playing out tonight. People might want to question the competition but no matter who we played, no matter what the spot, no matter how big the game, he was one of the best players on the court.”

An Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America selection, Thompson was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year and for the second straight year the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year. He ranked second in the nation in rebounding (12.1), 18th in blocked shots (2.7), 29th in scoring (20.4) and 36th in field goal percentage (.560).

“The lottery pick is so much better for him financially,” Dempsey said. “Obviously the higher you are picked, it puts you on a different pay scale. To have a lottery pick is just overwhelming. Words can’t describe how proud I am.”

Fifteen of the top projected draft picks are invited to New York for the live broadcast from Madison Square Garden. Thompson was the first player selected who was not in New York. “It worked out well,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t invited, but I wouldn’t have been able to celebrate with as many friends as I am here.”

Thompson was the first senior chosen in the draft. “I’m very glad I stayed all four years at Rider,” Thompson said. “It gave me a lot of experience and I’m glad I have my degree to fall back on, after hopefully a good amount of years in the NBA.”

Sacramento is a great fit,” Dempsey said. “They like to get up and down the floor. Jason is very coachable and will do anything they ask him to do. He should play in the NBA for a long time.”

“This means a lot to my school, the Rider community, and my family,” Thompson said. “It means a lot to a lot of people. It means as a high school player you can go to a school like Rider and still achieve your dreams on the court. I think I can be a role model to kids who don’t go to the bigger schools. As long as you have the talent and the ability to work hard, you can do something like this. I think it will make a lot of guys change their decisions on where they go to school.”

“With Jason picked 12th out of Rider University, it just goes to show that you can go anywhere in the country and showcase your talents,” Dempsey said. “Jason got to play all four years and he had a chance to show everyone what he could do.”

The 2008 Haggerty Award winner as the Metropolitan Basketball Writers’ Association Player of the Year, Thompson graduated with 2,040 points and 1,171 rebounds, one of just 96 Division I players ever to compile BOTH 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. “People started to realize in the last three weeks just how special he was and he was rewarded tonight by becoming a lottery pick,” Dempsey said.

A 6’11”, 250 pound forward, Thompson will be the first Rider basketball player to play in the NBA. Former Bronc Herb Krautblatt (1946-48) played for the Baltimore Bullets in 1949 of the Basketball Association of America (BAA), which was later to become the National Basketball Association (NBA), and Angelo “Ace” Tramontana played for Rider in the mid-1930s and played in the BBA’s infancy years of 1937-42.

Thompson played in the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-Star Game at the Final Four, where he compiled 12 points on five for seven shooting from the field and two of two from the foul line, eight rebounds, two blocks and two assists in 23 minutes of action against the best college seniors in the country.

Thompson graduated from Rider with a degree in Communication. His goal was to become a sports anchor on television. “My goal was to be a host on ESPN or TNT, now I’m going to be playing on ESPN and TNT,” Thompson said. “Although it was always a dream to play in the NBA, since I was a kid. Now that it is a reality it is pretty exciting.”

Thompson played in two MAAC Championship Games (2005, 2008) in his four years at Rider. As a senior he led the Broncs to a best-ever 23 wins. “I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a tremendous boost for our program and Rider University,” Dempsey said.

In high school Thompson led Lenape to the New Jersey Group 4 State Championship in 2005.

Since graduation Thompson showcased his skills in workouts for Golden State, Orlando, Seattle, Denver, Memphis, Phoenix, Utah, Toronto, Washington, Cleveland, Houston, Boston, Sacramento (twice), Detroit and New York/New Jersey. “The second time Sacramento looked at me they brought in some big name guys and I did pretty well against them,” Thompson said. “I’ve been concentrating so much on each work out that I haven’t thought that much about how I would feel when I heard my name,” Thompson said. “It feels great. It feels good going 12th because I didn’t have to wait around any longer.”

The only other Rider athlete to be drafted this high was Jeff Kunkel, who was drafted third in the first round of the 1983 Major League Baseball amateur draft. Kunkel enjoyed a 10-year career in the major leagues, mostly with the Texas Rangers.

“I’m just going to try and work as hard as I can,” Thompson said. “Obviously I’m starting from scratch with a new team, but I’ll do whatever it takes. It’s a great feeling right now.”

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The Campaign