Thompson hopes to take Saints to championship

Fred Jeter | 2/19/2016, 8:12 p.m.
Eric Thompson Sr. has left his son, Eric Jr., with a tough act to follow on the basketball court. The ...
Proud father Eric Thompson Sr. and his talented son, Eric Jr., show the basketball gene runs strongly in their family Photo by James Haskins James Haskins/Richmond Free Press

Eric Thompson Sr. has left his son, Eric Jr., with a tough act to follow on the basketball court.

The elder Thompson was on two State Group AAA championship teams at Marshall-Walker High School, and on two CIAA championship teams for Virginia Union University.

Eric Sr. was all about defense and ball handling and still holds several records for assists for the state high school and CIAA tournaments.

The younger Thompson, a quick-as-a-blink, 5-foot-9 junior guard at St. Christopher’s School, brings the same kind of credentials to the hardwood for the Prep League team.

“Eric is like a jolt of electricity to our team,” said St. Christopher’s Coach Hamill Jones.

Offensively, Thompson Jr. orchestrates an up-tempo attack showcasing the Saints’ All-State senior wing Nick Sherod.

“He’s an exceptional passer. He sees passes others might not know are available,” Coach Jones said of Thompson.

Defensively, Thompson’s duty is to make life as uncomfortable as possible for opposing guards.

“He’s an excellent on-ball defender,” said Coach Jones. “It’s no fun trying to bring the ball up court against Eric all night. He wears you down.”

This is Thompson’s second year with the Saints after transferring from Chesterfield County’s Clover Hill High School, where he was a freshman starter.

Last season, St. Christopher’s went 22-7, marking its first 20-win season in school history.

The Saints began this week 21-5, with hopes of making noise in the upcoming Prep League and State Independent Schools tournaments.

“My goals are to help us to our first Prep League title since 2007, and our first state tournament ever,” Thompson said.

Here’s how Thompson Jr. describes his role:

“I focus on great defense against the best perimeter players on the other team, and making sure our guys get good shots on catch and shoot opportunities.”

He is among team leaders in officials categories, assists and steals, and perhaps first among the Saints in harder to define intangibles.

There’s no column on the stat sheet for “electricity.”

Thompson’s passing targets include Sherod (25.9 average), Alexander Petrie (20.1 average), Justin Jasper (9.3 average) and 6-foot-8 Ameer Bennett on the post.

Thompson received much early tutoring from his father and has studied his dad on old video.

“He has been a great influence,” Thompson said of his father. “There are definitely similarities. He taught me to be unselfish and look to help other people.”

Eric Sr. was the back-up guard behind Bubba Johnson in 1982 for the state champion Marshall-Walker Cavaliers, coached by the late Pierce Callaham.

In 1983, Thompson ran the show as the Cavaliers repeated as Group AAA champs in Charlottesville.

Eric Sr. became a starter for much of his four years at VUU, helping the Panthers to CIAA titles in 1985 and 1987, and to four NCAA Division II berths.

In 1985, he was part of VUU’s 31-1 squad featuring National Player of the Year Charles Oakley. He also was the VUU teammate of future NBA players Terry Davis, Jamie Waller and A.J. English.

Eric Sr., his wife Angela, Eric Jr. and two younger sons reside in Chesterfield County. Eric Sr. is a health and resource manager for the U.S. Postal Service.

Last year Eric Sr. was inducted into the Richmond City Schools Athletic Hall of Fame.

While his credentials will be tough to match, Eric Jr. is described as the Saints’ “jolt of electricity” — and there’s no “off” switch in sight.