Isaiah Thompson left an impression in his first year of high school basketball. A bigger impression than maybe even he anticipated going into the season.
The 6-foot point guard started his freshman year at Zionsville with a bang and finished with 11 games of 20 or more points. Thompson averaged 19.2 points, 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals, outstanding numbers for a 140-pound freshman at a Class 4A program.
“I got off to a really good start and from there I had more confidence,” Thompson said. “I felt like I belonged at the varsity level. After the Carmel game (first game of the season), my confidence was through the roof.”
Thompson is the younger brother of Purdue guard P.J. Thompson, a 2014 IndyStar Indiana All-Star at Brebeuf Jesuit. They are close. P.J. shares advice with Isaiah about the adjustment from high school to college ball from his perspective. Isaiah visits Purdue “pretty much every weekend” for home games during the season.
But while the Thompsons share some similarities as players, they are far different prospects. P.J., though also an impact freshman at Brebeuf, fit more of the classic point guard mold early in high school. Isaiah is more of a slashing, get-to-the-basket athlete.
“He was much bigger than me in high school,” Isaiah said. “He was more distributing the ball and scoring when he could. I think I’m probably more of a scoring point guard but can get my teammates involved too. I think the thing that’s similar is our leadership.”
Zionsville coach Shaun Busick said Thompson deserves credit for understanding how to lead despite his inexperience. The Eagles finished 19-6 and played in the sectional championship, losing to state runner-up McCutcheon.
Thompson said the transition was made easier due to seniors Jack Pilcher (10.4 ppg, 4.6 rebounds) and Jordan Cox (4.4 ppg).
“They were the leaders of the team,” he said. “They respected me as soon as I came in. They saw how good I was able to do and they really wanted to help me and thought I could be a good player, so that helped out a lot.”
Some of Thompson’s best games were against Zionsville’s toughest opponents, including a 29-point explosion in a 79-74 win over Pike and its standout guards, Justin Roberts and Justin Thomas. His season high was 35 points in a December win over Bishop Chatard.
Thompson’s goal is to add 15 pounds to his frame before next season.
“I definitely need to get stronger,” he said. “I honestly feel like I’m getting stronger and the weight coaches are helping me. I’m looking to get to 155 (pounds) by my sophomore year.”
Isaiah has developed a close relationship with Purdue through his brother, though he said Butler, Indiana and Xavier have all expressed interest as well. He attended two Butler games during the season.
“I know Purdue,” Thompson said. “I go there every weekend so I feel like I know everything about Purdue. I feel like I have an advantage from other recruits since I go into the locker room with my brother and I’m on campus and hang with the team. I feel like that’s a good advantage to have.”
P.J. Thompson averaged 5.7 points, 2.7 assists and shot 41.5 percent from the 3-point line last year as a sophomore at Purdue. Isaiah listed Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard as players at the NBA level he tries to emulate, but also said he considers his brother a role model.
“I’ve watched everything he’s done from working out to playing at Purdue,” Isaiah said. “I always wanted to be just like him when I was older. He’s been a real inspiration to me.”
Isaiah said he’s already defeated P.J. in one game of one-on-one but said P.J. might dispute that claim.
“He claims I haven’t,” Isaiah said. “We haven’t played in a while, but I did beat him once.”
In contrast to his style of play, Thompson is in no hurry with his recruitment.
“I think I’m going to take it slow,” Isaiah said. “I look forward to getting better in the summer and then take that into my sophomore season. But recruiting will take care of itself down the road. I’m really focused on the summer and high school ball.”
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.