Hall of Fame inductee and legendary former Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson took some time to speak to a few youth basketball teams on March 23 at the Capital Sports Complex in District Heights, Md. Sponsored by the popular sports drink Powerade, Thompson hosted the clinic primarily for high schoolers preparing for a national three-on-three basketball tournament on March 27 at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C.

Speaking for nearly an hour, the former Georgetown legend touched on topics ranging from avoiding dehydration to teamwork and positive attitudes. “Never be afraid to try,” Thompson kept reiterating to local youths. “You will never know unless you try.”

Thompson then opened the floor for questions and the players peppered him with several inquiries from his birthday to his recruiting style, to one of his most famous pupils, Allen Iverson. Thompson has coached a number of former NBA stars, including Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo, but questions about the former Georgetown phenom Iverson always seem to follow the coach wherever he goes.

Upon the clinic’s completion, Thompson posed for a few pictures and shook hands with staff members and area coaches, deeming the day a success in the eyes of the always-persistent Thompson. “You try to tell them what you need to tell them but in the meantime you still hope that one person will listen to you,” Thompson said about the impact of his presence at the clinic. “I’ve always felt that way about dealing with kids but a lot of these kids probably never saw me coach but that’s not important to me. What’s important to me is to try to impart something to them that they can understand and respond to and hopefully somebody will listen.”

Thompson also addressed the number of talented high school players that have chosen to play college basketball out of state rather than remain in the area in recent years. Players such as Duke University’s Nolan Smith, Kansas’ Josh Selby, former Texas star Kevin Durant and former Kansas State star Michael Beasley are atop the list of Maryland players who have traveled outside of their home state to become stars at other college programs, an issue for local colleges that Thompson says he has no problem with.

“I think that’s your prerogative, Thompson said. “A person can make a choice and do whatever they want to do. Certainly I wanted guys to stay here when I was coaching, I tried to convince them to stay here but there’s enough for them to go everywhere. That happens, kids can go everywhere and do it you have to get your percentage of local kids if you’re going to be successful here. That’s very important.”


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO