The mother of Harker School junior basketball star Jordan Thompson, Grace Thompson, likes to tell a story.
When her daughter was just a child playing co-ed basketball for the first time, the boys froze her out; wouldn’t pass the ball to her. So she took matters into her own tiny hands, stealing the ball from her own teammates and scoring. And scoring again.
She hasn’t stopped scoring since.
“She hates when I tell that story,” Grace said. “But after that they fought over getting Jordan on their team. They didn’t want to play without her.”
More than a decade later Thompson, 16, is sixth in the state in scoring with 538 points for her small, private school in San Jose. She averages 26.9 points per game and two weeks ago broke the Harker record for career points with more than 1,200.
“Jordan has put in an incredible amount of work in the off season in developing her game,” said Harker coach Tomas Thompson, father of the player. “She has become one of the best 3-point shooters in the section through hours of time in the gym. She only took a few days off this summer when I through my shoulder out from rebounding for her!”
IN THE BLOOD
Basketball and propelling the ball through the cylinder is a family tradition. Tomas Thompson scored 1,948 points in his prep career, spent at the now defunct Marello Prep in Santa Cruz and at Soquel, ranking him as one of the Central Coast Section’s all-time leding scorers.
Thompson, 46, also played at the University of San Francisco, making 48 percent of his 3-point attempts in 1991-92. In a game against Loyola Marymount, he made all eight of his threes. In a high school game against rival Aptos and friendly foe Craig Holt, Thompson scored 42 points and Holt 40 as Aptos won by 30 points.
“Tomas never met a 3-point shot he didn’t like,” quipped former Santa Cruz Sentinel sportswriter Greg Lathrop to Prep2Prep last year. “But when he got on a roll, he could carry a team.”
Same goes for Jordan Thompson, who will lead Harker (14-6 overall, 3-3 league) into a 6:30 p.m. game Friday against Mercy-Burlingame at the College of San Mateo.
In a recent 60-11 win against Pacific Collegiate of Santa Cruz, she scored 25 points, followed by a 29-point effort in a 76-56 win against Immaculate Conception and 29 points in a 76-66 loss to Woodside Priory.
“She has gotten stronger, is playing more physical and has become a team leader,” Tomas Thompson said. “Joelle Anderson a 5-10 junior point guard for us who has been a huge part of our success and reads the passing lanes as well as anyone I have ever coached.”
Tomas Thompson coaches a fast-paced style, similar to how boys’ teams in the Santa Cruz area played in the 1980s when Thompson was a star. Influenced by the former great Aptos coach Bill Warmerdam and the success he had employing tall players who could run the court and shoot, teams such as Santa Cruz coached by Pete Newell Jr. at the time and Soquel adopted the run-and-gun style. Newell’s style could not have been more different when he coached at Serra in 1973-74 but he gradually shifted to more of the Warmerdam style after witnessing first-hand the Mariners’ success.
Now that style of play has traveled in time to The Harker School with Jordan Thompson the person often pulling the trigger for the Eagles.
“I like to shoot outside,” the Harker star said. “Shooting threes is my strong suit. Usually on the weekend my dad will rebound for me for two hours. After practices we’ll stay later and keep shooting.”
Yeah, Thompson shoots a lot, but there's a reason. The object of the game is to put the ball in the basket and this 5-foot-9 wunderkind does it with regularity.
“People know she’s the leader and that she’s dependable and that if they give her the ball something will happen,” Grace Thompson said. “She’s not selfish either. She’s clutch and can either shoot or drive. It’s great to watch.”
Jordan’s grandmother, Elene Thompson of Santa Cruz, says father and daughter are similar.
“She says she sees the same determined, fire-in-the-eye look,” Jordan said. “The same desire to win and to work hard.”
There are also more Thompsons on the way. Jordan’s brother, Trevor, is on the junior varsity team at Harker and seventh-grade sister Courtni will replace Jordan in the Harker lineup in two years.
When not in school where Jordan has a 4.3 grade point average with a 2,100 (out of 2,400) Scholastic Aptitude score, she is all basketball and health. Both her parents are physical education instructors and the Harker star lives the healthy lifestyle, on a recent night making quinoa chicken and Brussel sprouts. Quinoa is a grain that serves in this case as a substitute for fried chicken batter.
“She loves to bake and cook and is a health nut,” Grace said. “Everything ties into basketball.”
The athletic genes course through the family. Grace was a runner at St. Francis-Mountain View High (she’s also finished four marathons) and Jordan’s late grandfather Tom Thompson was the basketball coach at Rolling Hills Middle School in Watsonville for many years; the gym is now named in his honor. Tomas Thompson partially honed his game in that gym, perfecting the high-arching, long-range shot that became his trademark.
“My dad taught me to respect the game and to recognize my teammates,” Tomas told Prep2Prep last year, shortly after being hired by Harker as the Eagles’ coach. “He had us do the old John Wooden thing of pointing to a teammate who (assisted you). For my dad basketball being a team game was a big deal.”
That all-for-one mentality is all well and good – those old Aptos teams under Warmerdam had it, but they also frequently leaned on a designated scorer; a talented, confident player who could carry the load and not crumble under pressure.
Think of Jordan Thompson as that and just know she has put in the time to deserve that role. She’s taken those 1000s of practice shots with her dad and done the strength and conditioning workouts and eaten her special health-food diet. In a word, she's committed.
AT 'THE HOP'
Thompson has even worked out under the tutelage of the well-respected and successful Pinewood School basketball coach Doc Scheppler, a former Burlingame High star.
“He emphasizes the hop,” Jordan said. “It’s improved me and helps me get my shots off faster and makes the defender guess if I’m going to shoot or drive.”
The “hop” is the technique of stepping into a pass with two feet and making a quick move once the ball is received.
Though Jordan can both shoot outside and drive to the hoop with equal aplomb, there’s one type of driving she has yet to master – the kind where you climb behind a steering wheel and direct an automobile. Obsessed as she is with schoolwork and basketball and her health regimen, driver’s training has taken a, well, backseat. The Harker junior has flunked her driver’s test three times!
“Once they said she was driving on the wrong side of the road and another time they said she missed a turn and the third time they said she was on the wrong side of the road again,” Grace said with a laugh. “It was all ridiculous stuff. But after the high school season ends and she’ll be on three AAU teams and she said she needs the license so she can get to practice.”
Why are we not surprised?
John Murphy is the Web Content Manager at prep2prep.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @PrepCat