Kyle Thompson (above) committed to West Chester last week after receiving an offer over the previous weekend. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Zach Drapkin (@ZachDrapkin)
When Kyle Thompson found out West Chester wanted him to come to campus, he didn’t waste a second.
Though the Golden Rams had been recruiting Thompson since his sophomore year at St. Joseph’s Prep, interest from Damien Blair’s staff had been kept relatively quiet until about three weeks ago, when Thompson’s coaches and father -- former Drexel standout Michael Thompson -- relayed to him the school’s interest in having him visit. As soon as he could, Thompson scheduled an unofficial visit, and the following Saturday he came to West Chester to check out the school and meet some of the current players.
On the visit, Thompson received a full scholarship offer, and with other guards in the running for the same spot, he made his decision quickly, taking an official visit that Thursday and committing to Division II West Chester right then and there.
“They had offers out to other guys, so I had to make a decision relatively quickly,” he said. “I just fell in love with the school.”
Thompson certainly did not want to wait on the offer. As a sophomore, he had visited Binghamton and picked up a Division I offer from the Bearcats, but Binghamton gradually stopped showing interest in him and eventually signed fellow Philadelphians Sam Sessoms (Shipley) and Justin Steers (Rocktop Academy).
With that experience in mind, Thompson made sure he got his chance to capitalize on West Chester’s offer. Prior to his first visit, he conducted extensive research on the university’s offerings, particularly on academic opportunities in entrepreneurship and public relations, and at his two visits, he concluded that the lively environment in West Chester was the right place for him.
“I really didn’t know a whole lot about the school and I wanted to get a chance to at least get my own opinion on what the school would be like before somebody else could take that scholarship and I would potentially miss out on a good opportunity,” Thompson said. “Having gone through the recruiting process numerous times with different schools and coming up short, being disappointed because a school isn’t showing me as much interest as I would like, I wanted to make sure that I checked all the boxes and finally did it right.”
A talented shooter and scoring guard, Thompson had also gotten the attention of Division I programs Colgate, Hartford, and Marist, though none had offered him yet. The 6-footer racked up 14.7 points per game as a senior, shooting 42 percent from deep and topping 1,000 career points for his high school career as the Prep made a run to the Palestra for the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals and later reached the second round of the PIAA Class 6A state playoffs.
Along with La Salle commit Ed Croswell and backcourt partner Darius Kinnel, Thompson was one of the integral members of a Hawks team which earned career win No. 1,000 for legendary head coach Speedy Morris. As Thompson heads off to college, four years of Morris’s guidance should come in handy.
“Speedy has done so much for me and he’s taught me so many things, and I’m going to carry every little word that he’s told me to college,” Thompson said. “He taught me how to be patient, and patience is one thing that will serve me very well going to college.”
Thompson will be joining a West Chester program which has seen quite a bit of recent success. The Golden Rams went 22-7 this past season, winning their first-ever NCAA tournament game before falling to fellow PSAC school East Stroudsburg in the Atlantic Regional semifinal.
Under Blair, who will be entering his 11th season as head coach in the fall, West Chester has notched four straight 20-plus-win seasons and has emerged as one of the top Division-II programs in the area. Other local players on the roster include former Abington standout Matt Penecale and Archbishop Carroll grad Colin Daly, who Thompson previously competed against in the PCL.
“I would like to come into a program that’s on the rise a little, a program that’s relatively young and has a young, energetic coach that knows what he’s doing and a good coaching staff, and that’s exactly what West Chester had,” Thompson said. “I couldn’t ask for a better fit.”
Though four of five starters are set to return, the graduation of 1,000-point scorer Tyrell Long will give Thompson the opportunity to contend for substantial minutes in the Golden Rams’ rotation. According to Thompson, the coaching staff currently sees the stocky guard as a knockdown shooter capable of logging 10-15 minutes and 10-12 points per game as a freshman, which means he’ll no doubt have his hands full.
“What the coaches were preaching to me about how they played and how they ran their offense, I felt like it was a great fit for the basketball team,” Thompson said. “Hearing that they believe I can get that many minutes as a freshman was just encouraging. They’re not guaranteeing me anything, they’re just saying it’s a possibility if you earn the minutes.”
That possibility and the possibility of contending for a PSAC title excite Thompson more than anything else.
“Just the fact that they came off their first tournament win,” he added, “gives me motivation to get back there next year, and hopefully I can help them get there.”