Alexandria native Treyton Thompson had more than a year left to make a college decision if he chose to wait that long.
The 6-foot, 11-inch power forward who is now a junior playing at nationally-ranked La Lumiere Prep School in La Porte, Ind. could have held out to see if his recruitment would gain even more traction. He already had offers from Texas Tech, Minnesota, Iowa and Oklahoma after his sophomore season in Alexandria, but after an official visit to the Gophers recently, he decided there was no reason to wait.
Thompson gave a verbal commitment to Minnesota and head coach Richard Pitino on Nov. 30, becoming the first commitment for the Gophers’ 2021 recruiting class.
“They have everything that I really want,” Thompson said. “The practice facility, the weight lifting and everything like that. The cafeteria for their athletes is right next to where I would be living. It’s one of the top places in the country now after they’ve redone it. Richard Pitino is a really good coach who has been around coaching his whole life with his dad being one of the better coaches. Overall, I just had a really good connection with them. I felt if I wanted to get to the next level after college, it would be a good spot to go to.”
Thompson grew up a fan of the Gophers and said that did play into his decision some. It started from his time performing with the Aces, Alexandria’s youth performance basketball team that put on shows at halftimes all over the country.
“I remember watching them play and wanting to be a part of that,” Thompson said of the Gophers. “That influenced me a lot. Also, I just want to make an impact on all the other Minnesota kids, trying to tell them Minnesota is a good college, stay home. My parents, my grandparents, they all want to watch me, so they’ll probably come to every single game.”
The high school talent level in Minnesota basketball has gotten to the point where the state produces multiple top-150 nationally-ranked players every year. Pitino has faced some criticism for his inability to keep some of those top players home, most recently after Prior Lake power forward Dawson Garcia announced he was signing with Marquette.
Thompson is a nationally-ranked recruit himself. He is a 4-star player through both the Rivals and 247 Sports recruiting sites, with Rivals ranking him as the 90th overall prospect in the country for 2021, and 247 Sports listing him 79th nationally. Thompson hopes he can make an impact in recruiting other top-level Minnesota kids.
“If we can get some Minnesota kids here, it would definitely boost the fans up and everything like that,” he said. “I feel if we can keep them home, we have really good talent. We could probably win a national championship.”
Thompson said Minnesota coaches envision him as someone who can create a lot of mismatches when he gets on the floor for the Gophers. He averaged 15.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in Alexandria as a sophomore. That included shooting 38% from three on 72 attempts.
“That’s what they told me is they want me to come in, shoot it from the arc and just be an overall mismatch,” Thompson said. “If they put a smaller guy on me, go down low, post up and make them put a bigger guy on me. Then come back out and shoot some threes, get by the guy off the dribble. Overall, just be a mismatch nightmare.”
Adding strength in the weight room continues to be a point of emphasis for Thompson. He said he has put on about 15 pounds since last year after moving to Indiana to play his final two years of high school ball. Thompson is starting for La Lumiere in his first season there and says the transition has been good for him as he looks to his future.
“I’m learning to be more independent and everything,” he said. “I don’t have my parents to rely on as much, so homework and everything like that, I have to set a time for that. It’s really good. It’s going to prepare me for college. I really like it. The practices are extremely hard and overall it’s been really good.”
Thompson has no regrets about leaving Minnesota to finish out his prep career, but he is excited to know he is coming back home for college. The recruiting process was fun for him at times. Interest from college coaches gave him confidence in his game, but he saw no reason to continue it with the Gophers offering him everything he wanted.
“I started to feel that I started playing for a different reason other than because I love the game,” Thompson said. “I was trying to impress other people, and that’s not how I want to play. Now that I committed, the last couple practices, I feel more free. I feel I can be me, and I really like it.”