For many student-athletes, high school years are filled with recruitment and plans for taking their skills to the next level.
For most of them, the next step is college. However, for Derek Thompson, a senior at Eastern Michigan University, the process of playing college basketball looked a bit different.
The 6-foot-3-inch guard hails from Detroit and began playing basketball at 6. Thompson’s father began a team he eagerly joined, excited to play for his father. Playing for your dad has its ups and downs, but Thompson credits his father for much of his success as a player.
“He was always hard on me and he expected a lot out of me,” Thompson said. “It was fun, too, to play for my pops.”
Thompson’s father remains his favorite coach.
“He was my first coach, he coached me the longest, he introduced me to the game and taught me how to play,” Thompson said. “He loves me and makes sure that I stay in the right direction. He keeps pushing me to go further in life and in basketball.”
Not only did Thompson, 23, play basketball as a youngster, but he was also a pitcher on the baseball team. Thompson played a little second base and center field, but said pitching was his main position.
After high school, Thompson spent one year working for Foot Locker at Fairlane Town Center mall in Dearborn before attending Progressive Christian Academy in Washington, D.C. While in prep school, Thompson led his team in scoring with an average of 27.3 points along with 7.9 rebounds and 9.5 assists.
From there, Thompson went to Southeast Missouri State University, where he finished fifth for the Redhawks in scoring (8.4 ppg). That year the Redhawks suffered an 86-76 loss to EMU, a game in which Thompson scored 15.
Thompson was looking to transfer from SEMO and move closer to home when his mother became seriously ill. His choices included University of Detroit Mercy, Oakland University and EMU. Thompson ultimately chose EMU for several reasons, location being the obvious, but he was also drawn to the campus.
“It’s close to home and also far enough away from distractions back home, but close enough that I can always drive home if I need to,” Thompson said. “I also like the school; it’s a nice school with a nice campus and nice facilities.”
Since transferring to Eastern, Thompson has made a name for himself as the squad’s go-to three-point shooter in clutch situations.
In his first season with the Eagles, Thompson finished second on the team in scoring with an average of 9.4 points and first for three-point field goals with 69, which was also the 12th best single-season effort in Eagle history. He scored a career-best 31 points last season against Northern Illinois on Jan. 11, 2011.
So far this season, Thompson is averaging 11.4 points and has recorded 13 steals for the Eagles. He scored a season-high 22 points and made five three-point field goals against Eastern Illinois on Nov. 16 in the final game of the George Gervin IceMan Classic. Thompson was named the tournament’s MVP.
Basketball has certainly provided Thompson with a unique road full of opportunity, accomplishments and memories. One moment that he said will stick with him forever as a favorite is winning the Mid-American Conference West Division championship 54-53 over Western Michigan University.
Thompson is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in communications and plans to further his basketball career upon graduating from EMU.