INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — P.J. Thompson hopes the countless shots taken on empty courts over the past year will help him lead the Boilers past the NCAA tournament’s opening round, something they couldn’t do in his first two tournament appearances.
“Your work ethic can go a long way,” Thompson said. “I think that’s what got me to where I am today. If you’re going to be a 6-foot and under guard, there’s a lot of 6-foot and under guards that can shoot the ball and that can dribble, what are you going to do to separate yourself? Out-working everybody every day, working on your game every day, doing something to help you in a basketball sense.”
The scrappy, gritty point guard stands at just 5-foot-10 but carries more than his weight on the court thanks to a diligent regimen of strength and study.
"I would lift, shoot, before practice, then practice 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and then get some film in, study tables, dinner, do it all over the next day."
That tireless work ethic P.J. attributes to his family and to the strict academic standards he was held to during his high school days at Brebeuf.
"It taught me to stay after school with my teachers, talk to your teachers if you need extra help,” Thompson admitted. “I was going to tutors in high school, staying after, sometimes before, really showing my teachers that I care and then they'll be willing to help you out in the end if you just show them you care.”
“I brought that to college by going to see my professors if I need help, making sure I'm going to tutors if I need a tutor for the class, I got like a 3.7 last semester. I was Academic All-Big Ten and I'm doing well academically. I think Brebeuf prepared me for that.”
As Brebeuf prepared P.J. for success in the classroom, his Noiler basketball career and his father’s success on the court has set his sights on playing post-collegiately.
"I would like to play professionally a little bit overseas because my dad played in Italy, Germany and Norway and it's been a goal of mine since I was a little kid to play some form of professional basketball. Then, eventually, probably get into coaching, my dad's a coach, he's a basketball trainer. I just feel like I want to keep helping kids and passing my basketball knowledge on because I feel like I have a pretty good basketball IQ.”
Carrying on his dad’s career success is not surprising considering he already carries on his name.
"I'm LaSalle Thompson the fourth, actually, when my dad was younger, he was small obviously so they nicknamed him ‘Pee Wee’ so you get P.J. from ‘Pee Wee Junior’ so ever since I was a kid everyone calls me P.J."
The Thompson family ties extend one further. P.J. is getting a taste of coaching the next generation, watching his brother, Isaiah, a sophomore at Zionsville High School, and offering his perspective as a basketball player and a big brother.
“I tell him just to keep working, he has a lot of potential. I think he has a lot of potential to be better than myself and better than my dad. I just have to keep reminding myself that he's still young, he's going to grow, he's going to develop, I love where he's at right now I'm definitely his biggest fan."
P.J. is a big fan of his younger brother and also a big fan of reality television.
“Love watching ‘The Bachelor.’ My girl, Danielle L., she got off the show, so I haven't watched it since, I'm pretty disappointed in this season."
The basketball-bred “Bachelor” fan also boasts a well-hidden talent.
“People have no idea that I played the clarinet in middle school, I don't even think my teammates know that. I can't believe I just said that to the media but I was actually third chair, I wasn't bad but obviously I gave that up when I got to high school but I was in the band in middle school."
Making music may be behind him but P.J. hopes his team will make noise in the tournament as he looks to lead the march all the way to Phoenix.