Posted On: 06/8/19 12:03 PM
TULSA, Okla. — Rod Thompson stands in his kitchen mid-Sunday, both arms extended perpendicular to his torso with his palms facing up and fingers stretched neutral.
“None of these people shoot a basketball,” Thompson says, gesturing outside the walls of his home as if inviting the fellow residents of his South-Tulsa neighborhood to confirm his claims. The blistering June sun shines through the windows adjacent to Thompson’s front-door, revealing the handsome villa with a million-plus-dollar price tag across the pavement from his own.
Ironically, his son, Bryce, is the top-ranked basketball prospect in Oklahoma. The soon-to-be senior and five-star prospect at Booker T. Washington High School, who was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in March, sits inches behind Rod at the dining room table, listening with a noticeable attentiveness to his father’s soliloquy uncharacteristic of a typical 17-year-old.
Hours earlier, Bryce is working out in a semi-empty gym in Tulsa minutes past midnight.
Accompanied by a loud, allegro playlist of Drake, Bryson Tiller and other contemporaries and Oklahoma Run PWP teammate Matthew StoneMatthewStone6'4" | SFKingfisher | 2021StateOK, Thompson spends his Saturday trading reps with Stone in the secluded PWP facility, dubbed The Ranch.
They first practice their inside moves against a lifeless defender before moving to mid-range moves. After hours of repetition, Thompson and Stone finish with a shooting circuit that requires ten made 3-pointers from each of the five shooting spots, finishing with a baseline-drive dunk after the fiftieth successful shot. Both are drenched in sweat, exhausting themselves under the lights at The Ranch hours after most of Tulsa is asleep.
For the Thompsons, this is a nightly routine.
Rod watches from the timeline, challenging both his son and Stone to push themselves. A Tulsa Men’s Basketball alumnus, It wasn’t long Rod he was in his son’s shoes; perhaps not quite to the same degree, however.
“(My dad) just prepared me ’cause, you know, he was once in my shoes,” says Bryce through a smirk, “Not at my level, though.”
Bryce says his father is responsible for “just about all” of his recruiting knowledge.
Rod, who owns a wealthy medical distributorship, has become somewhat of a staple in the Tulsa-area basketball scene; Raised about 30 minutes south of Tulsa, Thompson won a trio of State Championships at Beggs High School. Following a three-year career at Tulsa, where he led the Hurricane in scoring his senior season, Thompson launched the PWP program, which has turned out impressive college prospects in previous years, including Arkansas’s Keyshawn Embery-Simpson and Utah State’s Tauriawn Knight.
Some have even nodded that Thompson could take a spot on the Tulsa Men’s Basketball staff following his son’s graduation in May.
“I’m really thankful because (my dad) taught me how to talk to coaches,” says Bryce. “just stuff he wishes he could’ve known at my age.”
Following an eventful weekend with PWP in New Jersey weeks ago, attention to the reigning Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year expanded outside the Sooner State to the forefront of national recruiting notoriety. Today, North Carolina, Tennessee and Michigan State are among the candidates flirting with Thompson’s Fall 2020 enrollment. Also in the mix are various Big 12 schools – Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma, to name a few.
“Coaches have been coming into my house, calling me everyday, it’s really been good,” says Bryce. “I just gotta continue working and everything else will take care of itself.”
Bryce was officially named a five-star recruit by 247 Sports on Wednesday, an honor shared only by the most elite prospects in the country.
Many believe his jump to stardom started at the Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University in March.
Following a pair of back-to-back State Championship losses in his freshman and sophomore years, Thompson brought a Gold Ball to Booker T. Washington, its sixteenth in history. In that game, Bryce finished with 12 points and eight assists, taking a sort of back seat to teammate Trey PhippsTreyPhipps6'1" | PGBooker T. Washington | 2020State#171NationOK, whom tallied 42 points on eight made 3-pointers.
It was the eight assists, however, that prompted the attention of Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, who flew to Tulsa to visit the Thompsons in-home in May, says Rod.
“When you have a five-star who’s willing to pass the ball off to a teammate in the championship game,” says Rod, “that’s going to catch some attention.”
Bryce says that staying grounded in his recent fame has been surprisingly easy.
“I remember years ago when nobody knew who I was. . . I just gotta stay humble and keep working.”
In many ways, it’s a sort of unorthodox conservatism that is so charismatic about Bryce.
Despite his handsome upbringing, Thompson still values hard work, evident in his late-night workouts at The Ranch and 5 a.m. alarm.
“They were like ’why do you want a job?’” says Bryce. “Being able to talk to people and sell a product will ultimately help me in basketball”
It’s almost questionable that a person like Bryce can balance this type of grounded-ness with his talents. As high school athletes have become hyper-enthroned, it’s both eye-catching and refreshing to see a Bryce ThompsonBryceThompson6'5" | CGBooker T. Washington | 2020State#15NationOK; entitling himself to little, showing gratitude for his laurels and keeping celebrity off of his pedestal.
Five-star work ethic
As Bryce leaves the court at The Ranch, beads of sweat falling from his nose and chin, he sits beside me court-side.
“Do you think you’re the hardest working player in the state?” I ask Bryce.
Bryce hesitates, then regains himself and sits upright from a slouch before answering.