Sweet 16: Kevin Thompson, Morgan State
Commemorative basketballs line the walls of Todd Bozeman's office, with each one signifying an important moment in his Morgan State tenure.
There are basketballs to remember MEAC championships, NCAA tournament appearances, wins over high-major opponents like Maryland and Arkansas, and several other notable accomplishments. For each of those highlights, Kevin Thompson was there.
“He’s been part of every last one of them,” Bozeman said of the Baltimore native.
Thompson has been one of the most integral parts to the success of Bozeman’s Bears over the past three years, which makes it all the more puzzling that the former Walbrook star finds himself suspended indefinitely from the team just weeks before the beginning of his senior season.
“[The suspension is] for a violation of team rules,” Bozeman said. “It’s something to be handled in-house. It is what it is.”
Bozeman wouldn’t comment on when Thompson might be reinstated, but when he is, Morgan will have a preseason All-MEAC selection at its disposal. Thompson, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound center, has been a double-double threat on a nightly basis ever since he first suited up for the Bears three years ago. That kind of production was exactly what Bozeman envisioned for Thompson when he first saw the Baltimore Select player at an AAU tournament in New York.
“I thought he was out of shape and overweight, but I thought he had skills and could really pass the ball,” Bozeman recalled. “He had good footwork for a kid that size. I thought that he could also rebound. … He was getting interest, but not a whole lot. Then I was on him the rest of the summer.”
Thompson’s senior season at Walbrook didn’t go quite as planned. He got injured early on and had surgery on both his knees. From there, Bozeman said, “everybody kind of dropped off him.” The Bears, though, were persistent in their pursuit.
“I always thought he could be a double-double guy. I really did,” Bozeman said. “I actually told him, ‘You could come here and be one of the top rebounders in the country. You could lead the conference in rebounding and be a low-post presence.’ I felt if he got in shape, really worked hard, I thought he could be an outstanding talent.”
Bozeman was proven correct by Thompson, who redshirted his first year while recovering from his surgeries, but teamed with Itchy Bolden, Reggie Holmes, Marquise Kately and others during the 2008-09 season to lead the Bears to their first-ever NCAA tournament bid. In the MEAC championship game, Thompson had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The next year, Bolden and Kately were gone, but Thompson and Holmes powered Morgan to another NCAA tournament. That 2009-10 season, Bozeman said, was the best he’s seen of Thompson.
“He was third in the country in rebounding and the outstanding player in the MEAC tournament,” Bozeman said. “That was Reggie’s senior year. We won 27 games. [Thompson] was defensive player of the year. He could have easily been the player of the year.”
Junior year was more of the same for Thompson from a statistical standpoint. He averaged 13.1 points, 9.1 rebounds – posting 13 double-doubles on the season – and was named to the MEAC All-Tournament team. But Morgan missed out on the postseason, and during the offseason, Thompson had the issue that led to his suspension.
“He still has some growing up to do,” Bozeman said. “If he really puts in the effort, he could have an outstanding career. It’s one thing to say it and another to put the time in. You can’t go to the bank and expect to withdraw money if you haven’t made a deposit.”
Bozeman said he’s counting on senior forward Ameer Ali, senior point guard Larry Bastfield and junior wing Anthony Hubbard for leadership. Bozeman is hopeful that Thompson takes care of his business in the coming weeks, and closes out his Morgan career in a positive way.
“[I want him to] lead, really work and develop a worker’s type of attitude,” Bozeman said. “If he does that, he really could lead the nation in rebounding. And he could be a force to be reckoned with … and end his career like how he started, which would be in the postseason.”
The Sweet 16 is an occasional series profiling the 16 best Division I college basketball players from the Baltimore area. Players were selected based on prior accomplishments and projections for the upcoming season.
Previous Sweet 16 selections:
Antonio Barton, Memphis
C.J. Fair, Syracuse
Brandon Young, DePaul
Sean Mosley, Maryland
Devon Saddler, Delaware
Devin Brown, Holy Cross
Eric Atkins, Notre Dame
Brendan Bald, Vermont
Jamar Briscoe, Charlotte
Dylon Cormier, Loyola
U.S. Presswire photo of Kevin Thompson by Jamie Rhodes / Dec. 27, 2010