Another Ja basketballer close to hitting the big times in the US
Another Jamaican basketballer has moved closer to becoming an NBA player after former Vere Technical High student and NCAA rebounding phenom Shevon Thompson was drafted by the Orlando Magic affiliate team Erie BayHawks as their second round 11th pick.
Thompson's draft follows on the heels of former Calabar High standout Vashil Hernandez, who was signed by the Miami Heat. Even though he was not selected in the draft, Thompson, former George Mason University standout, believes he can make a big impression in the NBA Development League and take his game all the way to the NBA.
"For sure, everything is about your work ethic, so I will be giving the extra and I will be working hard. I will focus on my rebounding. That is what I will continue to work on. That and things like tracking and catching the ball. I also want to make my offence better, but it's going to be tough," he told The Sunday Gleaner on Friday.
Former Jamaica Basketball Association president Ajani Williams, who has guided the player's career and mentored him at the Jamaica Basketball Association Elite Academy, also believes the sky's the limit for the talented player.
"He's a rebounding phenom. Nobody can stand in the way of Shevon and the NBA but himself. The sky's the limit for him, if he increases his knowledge of the game," said Williams.
Thompson was, unfortunately, diagnosed with acute myocarditis (an inflammatory disease of the heart muscle) and has been ruled out for six weeks. However, the illness is treatable, and the NBA prospect is expected to return to training in a few weeks.
"It (illness) didn't affect me much, but I wasn't happy because it set me back, but everything is for a reason. It gave me more time to learn the game and get my body right. So when I return, I can go into full attack mode. I am confident I will overcome this and move on," he said.
Thompson, who is a seven-footer, turned heads while attending George Mason. He was a top-five rebounder in his first two seasons in the NCAA Division One and led in scoring one season. He also had the honour of being named to the Atlantic 10 All-Third team. However, his playing time in his senior year decreased under a new coach and a new system.
But though he had draft workouts with Orlando Magic, the Houston Rockets, the Chicago Bulls, and the Washington Wizards and had significant interest from the Detroit Pistons and the Rockets, it was Orlando who quietly and surprisingly took the chance with the big Jamaican.
Thompson noted that the D-League has improve drastically over the last few years, and although he expects it to be tough, he's aiming to make a big impression.
"It's a great feeling being drafted by one of the teams in the highest basketball league in the world.. The D-League is getting better. It's a lot more difficult as there are a lot of guys from top leagues, but it develops you even better," he said
He added: "I want to improve my knowledge of the sport so I can make my game more fluid and think less during games."
Meanwhile, one scout who was present at one of the player's recent NBA workouts told Basketball Insider.com: "There is no doubt he has the size of an NBA player but what makes him special is his rebounding instincts and his knack for tracking the ball. He's a phenonenal rebounder. Considering he's only been playing for a few years, he's impressive," the scout was quoted saying.