For most of the 2009-10 season, Bullis junior varsity Coach Bob Brown kept telling Bulldogs varsity Coach Bruce Kelley that he had a talented freshman on his hands. So late in the year, Kelley brought Anthony Thompson — all 5-foot-8, 145 pounds of him — up for a varsity practice and matched him up with one his most talented players, Ryan Wright.
“Anthony was battling and getting the ball to where he needed to get it on the floor,” Kelley recalled, “so eventually during a water break I told Ryan, ‘You need to get on him,’ and he said, ‘I’m trying, Coach, but the kid is quick.’ Once I had that validation from two people I respect in Bob and Ryan, I knew this kid was the real deal.”
In three subsequent years of varsity ball, Thompson has proven his coaches right, overshadowing his small stature with big-time play. The Holy Cross senior recruit is averaging a team-high 14.1 points and shooting nearly 40 percent from behind the arc for No. 10 Bullis (21-4).
In Friday’s regular-season finale against Georgetown Prep, Thompson hit five three-pointers en route to 25 points and a 63-58 win, marking the Bulldogs’ 16th straight win and securing the top seed in this week’s Interstate Athletic Conference tournament.
As Wright found out during that one practice, Thompson possesses a deadly first step that allows him to beat opponents off the dribble with ease before either finishing at the rim or finding teammates for an easy bucket. With time, the point guard’s shooting touch has improved to where other teams must pick their poison in guarding him.
“He’s just as good going left as he is right and he’s established a lot of confidence in his jump shot, so now as a three-year varsity player, he’s really at the top of his game,” Kelley said. “With his will to win, even when we struggled early this year, we knew we were good because of little dog.”
Those struggles included a 5-4 start for a team that began the season ranked in The Post’s Top 10. As the veteran point guard, Thompson stepped up his leadership in ways that should aid his development at the next level.
“When taking losses, some guys would get down, so I had to make sure I picked the team up and let them know that we still got this,” Thompson said. “Now, our focus is unbelievable and we are all pushing each other and pulling out wins.”
Thompson has also been the catalyst behind a defensive effort that’s seen the Bulldogs hold six of their last eight opponent under 50 points.
“I love playing defense and getting after it,” the senior said. “Since I’m small, I feel like I have to push myself harder, so I go 110 percent on defense and on offense with my scoring and passing ability.”
Thompson’s multi-faceted game should help him make an immediate impact at Holy Cross next season, but before then, he and his Bulldogs will look to defend their IAC tournament crown this week.
● The Bullis girls’ basketball team wasn’t so fortunate Monday. The No. 17 Lady Bulldogs fell to Visitation, 75-58, allowing the Cubs to take command in the Independent School League AA standings. Preston Williams has more in his game story.
● No. 16 Riverdale Baptist lost its first game in Capital Beltway Conference play, falling to No. 17 National Christian, 91-84, in overtime. Riverdale got 20 points each from Nigel Johnson and Khary Doby, who both had missed the last six games with academic issues, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Isaac Fleming’s 34 points and an early 14-point deficit.
Tune in as B.J. Koubaroulis counts down the top five basketball plays from the week that was. Number one is especially nice.NUMBER CRUNCH: 18
Years since the Centreville girls’ basketball team last beat Oakton before the Lady Wildcats downed their AAA Concorde District rival last week.BREAKFAST LINKS
●Check out the latest boys’ and girls’ basketball Post Top 20 rankings.
●See who made this week’s All-Met Watch.
●Magic Harris lived up this name by leading Oxon Hill to an upset of No. 20 DuVal on senior night.
●No. 7 Maret has far exceeded expectations this season, winning 15 straight games and counting with a balanced roster.
●Walter Johnson has overcome the loss of leading scorer and senior center Kristen Larrick by playing small ball.
●Northern’s girls’ basketball team stands at 12-6, continuing its steady rise over the last four years.
●Howard, Reservoir and River Hill all enter the final week of the regular season with a legitimate shot at the Howard County girls’ basketball title.
●West Potomac enters play in this week’s Virginia district tournaments with its eyes on regaining the AAA Patriot District crown it won in 2010.WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
No. 13 Paint Branch at No. 12 Magruder
Winners of seven straight, Paint Branch looks to continue its success against the Colonels, who are led by sharpshooting George Washington recruit Nick Griffin.