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The Blue & Gray Press | September 22, 2017

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The tough road to success: men’s basketball player Haden Thompson

The tough road to success: men’s basketball player Haden Thompson

By ISAAC BLUE

He went for a steal, but his thumb got caught in a teammates jersey on a transition down the court while defending the ball. University of Mary Washington guard Hayden Thompson recounts, “At first I thought I just jammed my thumb, but this pain felt different, it was worse.”

Last season, Haden Thompson was excited to get his fresh start at UMW, but in an accident during practice he injured his thumb.

After inspection from the trainers, the injury report recovered a torn ligament that required surgery, tearing apart Thompson’s 2014 season before it even began. Though the Eagles went on to finish the year with an 8-19 record, “Haden’s injury was a very unfortunate, freak accident that changed the season’s path for all of us”, said UMW head coach Marcus Kahn.

Currently in 2015, Thompson is in his junior year and still a member of the UMW men’s basketball team. Though he has not played a meaningful game for UMW, Thompson has big hopes that this upcoming season is different, though he will never forget the stitches from last year.

“I remember being in the doctor’s office fighting back tears and thinking about how far I’ve come just to watch another season from the sidelines,” Thompson said. Haden Thompson graduated from Banner Christian School in Richmond, Virginia in 2011 and went on to play his freshman year at Lynchburg College during the 2011-12 season. That was Thompson’s last full season of college basketball.

The next season of 2012-13, Thompson only played the first semester and left in December 2012 due to personal reasons.

“I wasn’t doing the right things. I was having too much fun and not representing Lynchburg or myself in the right way. I disrespected the wrong people and wasn’t a nice guy at times. So, once it started to affect me on the court, I decided my time was done there,” Thompson said.

It was not only his teammates and coaches that he was afraid of disappointing. Most importantly, it was his family and friends at home. With Haden being out of school, he had to go back home to Richmond. He then found a job at a local grocery store.

Throughout August of 2013, Haden said, “Working at a grocery store was one of the lowest points in my life, but it was a humbling experience. Not only did I grow as a man but I realized what was really important and that nothing was given.”

Though his mother, Holly Thompson remembered, “I wasn’t too worried about Haden. I trusted that he was doing what was best for him, and he made me a promise he would be back in school in the fall.” Growing up in Richmond, Thompson had a core group of friends that were like brothers to him.

“We always had each other’s back since the day we met. It was a bond that we built over the years. When they were down, I would try to pick them up. When I was down they did the same for me.”

Haden’s childhood friend, Nelson Harris said, “Haden was the only one of us to make it to college to play a sport, so we all looked up to him for that. It really hurt us to see him back home.”

While working at the grocery store, Thompson never gave up on his dream to play college basketball. He continued to work out intensively that summer. He went to many workouts for college coaches trying to find the right fit for him. “I worked on everything that summer. I worked on my jump shot, quickness, agility and ball handling a whole lot,” Thompson said.

In the fall of 2013, Thompson finally found a new home at Division 2 Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, North Carolina. Disappointment would again find itself in Thompson’s college career. Due to NCAA academic rules, Thompson was forced to sit out. He was listed as a redshirt student athlete. “It was a disappointing time but I wasn’t going to give up because at least I knew I had a team and a school that I belonged to,” Thompson said.

Thompson continued to work on his game yet again while he sat out. This time around Thompson focused on getting stronger. “I wanted to be stronger on the court. I’m an aggressive guard and I need the strength to go along with my style of play.”

As the season ended, Thompson was looking forward to being on a full athletic scholarship at Pfeiffer for the next school year. Thompson was promised a full scholarship for the 2014-15 season, but when the time came to fulfill his coaches’ promise, he was only offered $15,000. That may seem like a significant amount of money to play basketball, but the cost of the school was nearly $40,000 a year. “When my coach first offered me $15,000 I was upset because all the work that I did felt pointless. But somehow, I found the strength to keep pursuing my dream,” Thompson said.

The summer of 2014 came and Thompson had to make another big decision. “I had decided whether I wanted to accept the offer or move on,” Thompson said. Haden decided to move on. “I knew what I had worked for and it was more than the offer I was given, so I met with more coaches.”

Thompson eventually met with first year coach at UMW Marcus Kahn. A few weeks later, Thompson decided that UMW was his new home.

Today, Thompson is still preparing to play in his first college basketball game since 2012. “I love it here. I love my teammates, coaches, and all the new friends I’ve made. I am truly excited for what the future has in store for me here.”

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