At the end of Isaiah Thompson’s sophomore year, he knew there were big shoes he was going to have to fill.
The Amory forward was the Panthers’ lone starter coming back from a team that won the regular season division and the Monroe County Tournament championship. Thompson stepped up in his junior season, averaging nearly 22 points a game. Now as a senior, he’s looking to up his game even more as college coaches are now starting to take notice.
“When I came in last year, I knew I had to have a bigger role on the team than I did my sophomore year, so I just kept working,” Thompson said. “I took practice more seriously, and I got in the gym and got a lot of shots up. I demanded myself to be better on the offensive end for my team.”
Amory coach Brian Pearson said he’s seen a maturity come into Thompson as he comes into his third season as a starter for the Panthers.
“Isaiah has definitely matured, and we laugh about it when we talk about where he was as a freshman and sophomore,” Pearson said. “Some of the guys that have played for us in the past are big supporters and fans of him. They have seen how much he has grown. I feel like Isaiah has a big supporting cast in his coaches, players and the parents, and everybody loves him. He’s a likable guy, and I think for him, he has to ask a little more of himself. There are still so many ways that he can get better, and I’m trying to help him see those things.”
While he upped his points total nearly 10 points per game from his sophomore to his junior season, Thompson said he’s continuing to work on being a more complete player. That includes shooting the ball from three-point range more.
“I’m trying to be better than I was every year of high school. That’s always my goal,” he said. “I have been working on my passing, my dribbling and more outside shots, and I think my game will be there.”
While he currently carries offers from Itawamba, Coahoma and Northeast, Thompson has also received interest from Hinds and Mississippi Delta at the junior college level and several four-year schools, including Blue Mountain, Freed Hardeman, Florida College, West Alabama and Jackson State.
“Isaiah knows he’s going to have the opportunity to play at the next level, and we’re excited for him about that,” Pearson said. “He’s just a very likable kid, and he’s almost too quiet at times. You want to find out what pushes his buttons because he’s a grown man at times with a body that can really punish some people on both ends of the floor. That’s what we’re really trying to get out of him. I think he will keep working, without a doubt, and he wants to be good. I think he will have a good senior year.”
In June, Thompson also participated in the MHSAA/MAC Elite 100 Showcase in Ridgeland.
“It was a pretty cool experience. Being a showcase, you don’t get the ball as much as when you do, you have to do what you have to do,” Thompson said. “I had fun, and I learned some things. I feel like I have gotten better at playing around the ball and with the ball.”
Pearson said Thompson has also improved through playing AAU basketball during the summer months.
“He’s putting himself on the floor with some really good players. He’s having a lot of opportunities to learn the difference between maybe playing some high school ball around here and really stepping on the floor with nine other guys who are just as good as him,” Pearson said. “I think he’s done a good job of holding his own in some of those things. He’s still got so much potential that he can tap into that we’re going to be trying to press him to get to pretty quick because he has one year left with us.”
While Thompson had a breakout junior season, the young Panthers struggled last season, winning just five games and failing to make it out of the division tournament after losing so much firepower from the 2017-2018 squad.
Thompson said he feels like the experience gained last season will help the team as a whole in getting back to competing within their new division in Class 3A and that the team has had a strong summer together.
“I think we have gotten a lot better since last season. Our goal this year is to win at least 20 games,” he said. “We did that two years ago, and we’re trying to get back to that. We want to have a shot in the division tournament and also to hopefully compete again for the Monroe County championship. This summer, our chemistry has gotten a lot better. Everyone is clicking on offense and defense. We’re just getting better playing around each other.”
For personal goals, Thompson named being the division player of the year again and the Daily Journal’s Class 3A player of the year as two things he would like to accomplish. He shared division player of the year honors with Itawamba’s Jaxon Orr last season and also wants to pass his single-game career high in points scored after hitting 30 points against both Biggersville and Nettleton.
“I would like to score 40 points this year,” Thompson said. “In 10th grade, I scored 20, then as a junior, I hit 30, so I’m just trying to get 40 before I graduate.”