Jason Thompson has enjoyed an impressive NBA rookie season with the Sacramento Kings. He is averaging 10.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in 27.5 minutes, but despite the success, the 2004 Lenape graduate hasn’t become too big a star to forget about his alma mater.

Thompson was rooting, albeit from a distance, when Lenape made its magical run to win the state Group 4 boys’ basketball championship and eventually finish as The Inquirer’s No. 1 ranked South Jersey team.

Seeing his school win the second state title, after he helped lead the Indians to their first as a senior, was a big deal to the 6-foot-11 Thompson.

“I was excited,” Thompson said earlier this week in a phone interview. “A lot of people were giving me updates.”

For being on the West Coast, Thompson followed the Indians as closely as he could.

“I hear they had a buzzer-beater in two games,” he said. “I was being real supportive even though I was 3,000 miles away.”

He was pretty close about the buzzer-beaters. Lenape overcame a 16-point third-quarter deficit to defeat Cherokee, when Mike Celestin hit a game-winning 17-footer at the buzzer in a 47-45 overtime South Jersey Group 4 semifinal win.

Celestin also hit a game-winning 13 footer with 3.5 seconds left in a 41-40 win over Neptune in a Tournament of Champions quarterfinal.

That was Lenape’s ninth straight win after the Indians had gone through a rough 4-7 stretch.

“The team got hot at the right time,” Thompson said, his voice filled with pride.

Thompson’s team in 2004 won the school’s first boys’ basketball state title. He had 15 points and 14 rebounds in a 66-51 South Jersey Group 4 final win over host Atlantic City.

Two games later Thompson had 16 points and 12 rebounds in a 63-46 state Group 4 title win over Plainfield.

“It felt so great to win it and we were proud that we were the first ones in school history to win it,” he said.

Thompson is a player who kept developing well after high school. He literally grew – three inches to be precise – after leaving Lenape to attend Rider.

Thompson was an Inquirer second-team all-South Jersey selection. His teammate Matt Betley, was The Inquirer’s South Jersey player of the year that season.

Who will forget the quote from Atlantic City coach Gene Allen after Lenape beat the Vikings in the sectional final?

“Betley and Thompson are better in person than they are on film,” Allen said.

Thompson said he didn’t care about statistics in high school, except the ones following the win column.

“It wasn’t about guys trying to go out and average 20,” he said. “We had balanced scoring and that is what made us successful.”

Thompson said he enjoyed playing under then coach Bill Lange and also said he isn’t surprised that this year’s team prospered under Chuck Guittar, who was an assistant on the 2004 team.

One surprise to some observers has been Thompson’s rapid development since leaving Lenape and attending Rider.

“It took a while for Jason to grow into his body, and once he got in the weight room and everything changed with his body and he matured, he really took off,” Guittar said. “Everybody at Lenape is so thrilled with how well he has done.”… Read Entire Article Here

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