Thompson’s Dizzying Week of Hoops

BALTIMORE — A few minutes removed from Findlay (Nev.) Prep’s 65-50 win over Charlotte Christian Thursday night, Tristan Thompson sauntered into the media room at Coppin State and plopped down in a seat alongside his coach and teammates. It was about 9:45.
Twenty-four hours earlier and some 400 miles away in Columbus, Ohio, Thompson and his West All-Star squad wrapped up a 107-104 victory in the McDonald’s All-American game. What happened in between was somewhat of a blur, a dizzying concoction of planes, hotels and basketball. “I’d say a lot of moving around,” Thompson said, reclining in his chair and smiling. “That’s the key word. A lot of moving around.”Soon after Thompson, a 6-foot-9 power forward signed with Texas, watched Brandon Knight hit a game-winning 3-pointer in the McDonald’s game, he left the Value City Arena and headed back to the hotel. He signed autographs, met with family and friends and packed his bags. He had little time to reflect on the four days he spent with the nation’s top players and his performance on high school basketball’s biggest stage, an eight-point, five-rebound effort. He had another plane to catch. Thompson and Findlay teammate Cory Joseph, also a West All-Star, zipped over the airport for the 1 hour, 10 minute flight into Baltimore. He arrived at the hotel at about 1 a.m. “I put my bags away and went right to sleep,” he said.The rest of the Findlay team, meanwhile, was already settled in and prepared to defend its National High School Invitational title. The grind of travel is nothing new to the team from Henderson, Nev., a sprawling suburb of Las Vegas. This season it’s played games in Nevada, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Florida, West Virginia, Kentucky again, Ohio again, Massachusetts, Florida again and New Jersey.It’s become routine, and coach Michael Peck has learned that tweaking the schedule and allowing for some leeway on game day is a necessity, so long as his players are ready come game time. “One of the things we do, we always like to play the latest slot we can when we travel,” he said. “We let guys sleep. … I don’t believe in getting guys up at the crack of dawn, especially when we’re playing. If they’re going to do what we ask and demand of them on the court, then I don’t want them saying, ‘Well, we didn’t get enough sleep, we’re tired.’ So I’m going to give them that area, but they know when they step between the lines they got to bring it.”That benefitted Thompson, who managed close to 10 hours of sleep on Thursday night. He made sure to stay hydrated, and he ate a refueling meal of pasta and chicken before the game.Findlay took the court against Charlotte Christian at 8 p.m., and Thompson contributed 16 points and nine rebounds in its win.“Once the ball got tipped up I felt rejuvenated and just ready to play,” he said.From there he regained a somewhat normal schedule. On Friday at 2 p.m., Findlay beat Mountain State (W. Va.) in the semifinals, 68-53. Thompson had nine points, eight rebounds. And on Saturday, in the final against Montverde (Fla.) Academy, Thompson had 15 points and 11 rebounds in the 59-46 victory as Findlay captured its second straight NHSI title.After the Nike Hoop Summit next Saturday in Portland, Ore., where Thompson will play for the World Team, he heads to the Jordan Brand Classic in New York City on April 17. When that’s done, there’s finally some downtime from basketball. He’ll graduate from the Henderson International School, where Findlay’s players study, and return home to Brampton, Ont,, for a short vacation. Then he’ll head down to Texas for summer school. For the first time in years he’ll have a summer without the traveling, without the planes and hotels.Thompson’s countrywide tour will find a resting place in Austin. “I think it’s going to help me a lot,” he said. “It’s going to actually help my body recover a lot because in AAU you do like the five games in one day. I’m just going to be in Texas and be in one solid spot and just working hard. “I’m ready to help bring the Longhorns a championship and go to the Final Four.”