When Michael Thompson turned on the NBA draft last week, he knew he was watching as a fan and not as a player waiting hear his name called.
Thompson, the former Northwestern point guard, has understood for a while that if he’s ever going to make it to the NBA, he’ll have to work his way up.
“I knew right after the season I wasn’t looked as someone who would be drafted,” Thompson said on Monday. “I can only control what I can control. It’s definitely tough. There are a lot of big names and a lot of people getting (NBA) workouts. It’s like… I’m just as good as some of them. It’s just how the business goes.”
Thompson faced a similar hurdle coming out of Lincoln Park High School in Chicago. Despite having been one of the top point guards in the Public League, many schools stayed away from him because he only stood 5-foot-10.
Despite starting at Northwestern for four years and competing right with the Big Ten’s top point guards, Thompson finds himself again being measured not by his ability, but his size, as he embarks on a pro career.
“I definitely think the main reason is my size,” Thompson said. “I definitely think there’s ways to cover that. I think my shooting can overcome that and my ability to play point guard and run a team. Just like high school, it’s a motivating factor for me to get in the gym and work on my game.”
Since Northwestern’s season ended in March, Thompson has been in the gym two or three times a day. He’s especially put more time and effort into playing outside of Northwestern’s Princeton offense. He’s worked on creating space off the dribble and finding shots for himself.
At the next level, Thompson envisions himself as more of a scoring point guard. During Northwestern’s trip to Italy in last August, Thompson showed that potential when he put up 38 points against Fastweb Casale Monferrato.
Italy also happens to be the country Thompson would most like to play overseas in. His agent has also looked into him playing in France and Spain. Thompson hoped to know more about his pro future in the next few weeks.
“Italy is a beautiful country,” Thompson said. “I had a lot of fun sightseeing and playing out there. The fans really embrace the players, especially the Americans.”
Wherever Thompson does end up next, he doesn’t plan on staying forever.
“I don’t think anyone plays the game of basketball to want to go somewhere and be average,” Thompson said. “I want to prove myself and try to come back to America and play in the NBA. If it takes me two to three years to play overseas, that’s fine. As long as I’m playing and having fun, that’s what it’s all about.”