Janee Thompson has learned over the years to be a Whitney Young point guard is an honor, but it’s also a challenge.
Thompson watched closely how point guards Chanise Jenkins, now at DePaul, and Kiana Johnson, now at Michigan State, handled themselves and the team the last few seasons. Thompson took mental notes and prepared herself to take over for them and try to continue what past they and other past point guards have accomplished.
With her senior season nearing an end, Thompson has done just fine so far.
The Dolphins are 26-0, ranked No.2 in the area, No. 11 nationally and recently won their fourth consecutive city championship. The 5-foot-7 Thompson has struck the perfect balance between scoring and passing, averaging 19 points and seven assists, and to add to her memorable season, she was selected to the McDonald’s All-American Game on Thursday.
Thompson is also the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week.
“Probably the biggest stride she’s made is she’s now able to run the show and really lead the team,” Whitney Young coach Corry Irvin said. “It’s the first year she’s able to do that. She was kind of waiting for this opportunity, playing behind other point guards. She was kind of waiting for her turn. Now, it’s her turn.”
The wait wasn’t bad. Thompson didn’t mind playing backup to Jenkins and Johnson. She admired both players and enjoying playing with them.
“Before I was able to play in the background as far as handling the ball and controlling the game and leadership as well,” Thompson said. “I had Chanise and Kiana. Now, they’re gone, and I had to step up more. There is pressure that comes with it, but I think I’ve handled it pretty well. I learned a lot of from them and playing behind them.”
The pressure Thompson speaks of is partly what comes with being the point guard on any team. There are the responsibilities of bringing the ball up, fending off defensive pressure, making the right decisions and so on.
Thompson wasn’t so worried about that. But where being the point guard at Whitney Young is different than most places is the constant success the program has had. The Dolphins have been to the state tournament six of the last seven years, and the point guards have often played a large part in that.
“It’s been a great line of point guards that have come through Whitney Young,” Thompson said. “That’s made the program very successful. I was up for the challenge. I like being able to step up and be one of those great point guards they saw come through Whitney Young.”
Individually, Thompson has undoubtedly put herself into that elite category. She’s ranked No. 35 nationally in the Class of 2012 by ESPN HoopGurlz, is headed to play in Kentucky and now will play in the McDonald’s All-American Game.
While Thompson is pleased with her individual accolades, she wants to be remembered for what her team did.
“Basically, I want to leave here with a state championship,” Thompson said. “That was my goal in high school.”
Whitney Young will embark on that goal next week when the playoffs begin. If the Dolphins are to win the Class 4A state championship, they’ll likely have to go through Bolingbrook again. They’ve faced Bolingbrook in the last four state tournaments and have won once.
Like playing point guard this season, Thompson is ready for whatever challenge is ahead.
“We don’t care,” Thompson said of playing Bolingbrook. “It is what it is. Right now, we’re taking it one game in a time. We’re just trying to get there.”