Western Pennsylvania continues to develop strong Division I women’s basketball talent and there’s a budding young star in the pipelines.
Journey Thompson is in her first year of high school, but is a name they are already talking about in the basketball recruiting circles and a player you’ll be hearing about a lot over the next four years. Thompson attends Peters Township High School and is a member of the WPA Bruins AAU team.
Pittsburgh Sports Now had a chance to talk with Thompson, her mother Jenifer and also her AAU instructor to find out more about her the player and also what it’s like to start getting attention like this despite being only 14 years old.
The first impression, then reaffirmed by her mother and coach, is that Journey is not your average teenager and mature beyond her years.
“I have to say that I’m very fortunate because Journey is such a mature, well-rounded kid and handles all of this very well,” said Jennifer Thompson. “She’s well-rounded academically, she’s a 4.0 student, she excels in music and arts so we approach all this from a very humble standpoint. We let her know that a lot of this is because of her hard-work but a lot of it is also a gift and that she should be humble and thankful everyday. As quick as it’s been given to her, it could always be taken away. We tell her to always appreciate what you have.”
Although she’s getting initial interest from schools, she hasn’t formally received any D-I offers yet. When that time comes, Jennifer Thompson is confident that her daughter will handle the crazy business of college recruiting.
“I think she’ll be coming at it from the main standpoint of where will be a good fit for her academically where will fit her best,” she said. “She knows that basketball won’t be around the rest of here life. Although basketball is very important to her right now, she realizes down the line that basketball will be gone and academics need to play a factor.”
Not surprisingly, one of the programs already showing Thompson interest is Dan Burt and Duquesne. On Saturday, Thompson spent some time at Duquesne with the players and coaches and came away impressed.
“The Duquesne team just seems like they’re very tight and all very supportive of each other and dedicated to what they’re doing,” said Journey Thompson. “I really like Coach Burt. It just seems like he gets the job done and is a level-headed, genuinely kind person and really seems to care about his players.
“I had a lot of fun on Saturday. I was there with a couple of my teammates from my AAU team but we all had a lot of fun there.”
Like any basketball player, Journey Thompson has current strengths of her game and the things she’d like to work on over the next few years.
“I think that I’m a very good defender, I’m strong and I hustle on the court and go after the ball and rebounds,” she said. “I’m trying to get better on offense overall, better with my shot and finishing. But overall, I’m proud of my basketball IQ and seeing what’s happening on the floor and reacting to it.”
John Tate, who for the last nine years as been the executive director of the highly successful WPA Bruins AAU team, gave a more detailed description.
“Journey is a hard-working kid that has some God given gifts. She’s long, she’s athletic but those two things don’t always equal being a great player,” said Tate. “However, when you add that she’s a student of the game, a hard worker. She’s been with our program since the 5th grade and to see how far she’s come, it’s just a testament to hard she works. It’s not just I’m talented, I’m six-foot, I can jump and I’ll just show up. She’s a very talented, dedicated player for being only 14 years old. If she continues to show this dedication, the sky is the limit for her.”
Over the last nine years, Tate has helped develop and mentor countless Division I players and has no doubt that’s the path Thompson is headed.
“There’s no doubt about that. Journey will play at the division-one level, it’s just a matter of what level and that will depend on how much she continues to work to develop her game,” said Tate. “If she grows, there’s a big difference between a 6′-0″ and a 6′-3″ young lady. So if she grows another inch or two or three that will be a factor. But the biggest thing is how much she adds to her game over the next couple of years and that will determine how high she goes. However, she’ll play at some level of D-1 no doubt.”
That’s a lot of compliments and expectations being placed on this teenager but Journey Thompson is ready and excited for the journey.
“I’m sure [recruiting will] be an intense process and will probably be nerve-racking,” she said. “But I’m going to be very appreciative of any coach that would want me to play for their team and that would take the time to watch me play.”