CONCORDIA, Kansas — Cloud County Community College redshirt sophomore Alvin Thompson fought back tears Monday when the basketball star sat down to sign his National Letter of Intent to play at Fort Hays State University.
The one-time redshirt turned First-Team All-Conference selection in the KJCCC had many suitors vying for his services. But it was FHSU, the in-state NCAA Division II program just a few hours west down I-70, that offered something unique no other campus could during Thompson's previous visits.
"I felt like it was home. It felt just like the Cloud County atmosphere," Thompson said of his decision to ink with the Tigers. "The people were welcoming and they showed a lot of interest in me."
The interest was justified following a 2018-19 season that saw Thompson set career highs across the board, including scoring (16.5 points per game), field goal percentage (50.7%), rebounding (3.7) and assists (2.0).
His scoring average was up from the 11.6 points per game his redshirt freshman season, thanks in part to the work Thompson put in over the offseason to develop his outside jump shot. After shooting just 3-of-17 (18%) from 3-point distance in 2017-18, Thompson improved to 23-of-54 (42.6%) this past winter.
His performance earned him First-Team All-Conference and Second-Team All-Region honors as he helped lead the T-Birds to a bounce-back season that saw them finish 16-15 overall and in third place in a loaded KJCCC East.
But it is Thompson's character on and off the floor that Cloud County head coach Jordan Altman said the T-Birds will miss the most from the 2019 Homecoming King.
"Al is just a special player, regardless of whatever he did on the basketball court. The type of person he is, how he treats people, and the life and energy he brings made it a pleasure to work with him," Altman said. "Then you throw in on top of that what an amazing basketball player he is, and the talent he is, you cannot replace an Alvin Thompson. You can only hope to find 2-3 guys who can help replace what he's done for our program the last couple of years."
Thompson will now join a Tigers program that has seven NCAA Division II National Tournament appearances under head coach Mark Johnson and are coming off an 18-11 overall record in 2018-19.
"I think the sky is the limit for him, honestly. What we've found out about Alvin is, when he's feeling really comfortable, he's able to grow and develop at a really high rate," Altman said. "Continuing on to a similar environment in Hays, I know he felt very comfortable there, I feel he can go as far as any player they've had in recent history. He is a potential All-Conference guy who could possibly make money playing the game someday."
While his basketball future is bright, Thompson said he is just as excited about the academic opportunity to earn his bachelor's degree in Sports Management.
"It's important for me to get my degree, especially in my household. That'll be a big deal outside of just basketball," Thompson said. "That's the most important thing and something that stood out to me on my visit. They (Fort Hays coaches) said they were going to help me get my degree."