In March 2012, junior forward Hollis Thompson declared for the NBA draft, ending his career as a Hoya. Because this was his second draft declaration, Thompson has forfeited his remained year of college eligibility. Before leaving the Hilltop to train for impending draft workouts, Thompson sat down with The Hoya for an exclusive interview.
“Georgetown, they take everything seriously. The Georgetown team — a lot of the guys were similar to me, focusing on school and basketball,” Thompson said. “When I came to Georgetown, it [had] the Ivy League feel, so outside of basketball, I could still work hard and focus in the classroom.”
Ultimately, Georgetown’s “Ivy League feel” combined with the basketball program’s dominance — the Hoyas had just made a run to the Final Four that spring — was what led Thompson to the Hilltop. Then a four-star prospect and the No. 63 recruit in the 2009 class, he chose the Hoyas over UCLA, Duke and USC.
Thompson arrived at Georgetown for the spring semester in 2009, having graduated from Loyola High School in December so that he could start taking classes and begin practicing with the team. Thompson is just two classes away from completing his degree, a B.A. in Economics, and plans on eventually completing his studies on the Hilltop.
He followed on the heels of a promising 2008 recruiting class that featured future teammates Greg Monroe, Henry Sims and Jason Clark. Then-Hoyas Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace and DaJaun Summers were leading a charge toward another Big East title, and the Blue and Gray faithful were riding high.
The team wound up underachieving down the stretch that year, setting an unfortunate precedent for the next three years. Although Georgetown never missed the NCAA tournament during Thompson’s time on the Hilltop, they won just one game and were upset by double-digit seeds each time. Following the most recent tournament loss — a game Thompson single-handedly kept the Hoyas in by scoring 23 points — he could not hide the mixture of anger and despair on his face in the press conference afterward.
Thompson junior leaves as the most efficient three-point shooter in program history, although the 6-foot-8 claimed ignorance when asked about that feat.
“Just found that out from you,” he said, smiling.
FINDING HIS PLACE
Georgetown fans have carried on a love-hate relationship with Thompson over the last two years. TheL.A. native — known as “Hollywood” to the Hoya faithful — always knew how to put on a show. His on-court heroics were paired with an infectious sense of humor that occasionally manifested itself in interviews — most notably when he once paused, headshot style, before answering a question.
During his sophomore year, Georgetown, then undefeated and ranked No. 9 in the country, was in the midst of a back-and-forth battle with Temple. With his team down by one with five seconds left, Thompson took — and missed — a difficult, contested layup instead of passing the ball to leading scorer Austin Freeman or wide-open forward Julian Vaughn. As a result, the Hoyas dropped in the national polls and missed their shot at going undefeated in the nation’s toughest non-conference slate. A month later, Thompson found himself giving up his starting spot to then-freshman Nate Lubick.
But just when his season could have gone south, things changed for Thompson. He was superb off the bench, leading the team with a 52 percent mark from the field and ranking second with 4.4 rebounds per game. Thompson ended the year second in the Big East in three-point shooting, and scored a career-high 26 points in Georgetown’s NCAA tournament loss to VCU.
Following that loss, the draft drama began. Thompson’s two classmates on the team — Vee Sanford and Jerrelle Benimon — announced their decision to transfer, and Thompson declared for the NBA draft, but didn’t hire an agent.
Thompson went through workouts with NBA teams, reportedly impressing several scouts. But just hours before the deadline to withdraw from the draft and retain college eligibility, Head Coach John Thompson III announced that Hollywood would return to the Hilltop.
“They told me they wanted to see me get stronger, take more of a leadership role on the team, to become more of a threat offensively and become a lockdown defender,” Thompson said of the advice he received from NBA scouts.
THE LAST SEASON
The lanky forward added a little more weight and upped his rebounding average to 5.5 boards per game in the 2011-12 campaign, third-best on the team. He was the Hoyas’ best outside shooter and finished second on the team in scoring while playing more than 1,000 minutes in the season. Only Clark, the team captain, saw more floor time.
Thompson’s NBA stock was at an all-time high during the winter, when he burned Top-25 teams Alabama and Marquette with last-second threes, helping the surprising Hoyas to a national ranking of their own. He disappeared from the headlines as the season wore on, though, as Sims emerged as the centerpiece of the Georgetown offense. Still, he elected to declare for the draft.
Thompson’s departure leaves next year’s team with no seniors. Thompson III loses his top three scorers in Clark, Thompson and Sims, who accounted for more than 43 percent of the team’s points, rebounds, assists and steals.
Of course, last year’s last-minute decision by Thompson to withdraw his name from the draft just a few hours before the deadline prompted most fans to believe the junior wouldn’t be long for the Hilltop.
“I talked to him about the decision, and he gave me his blessing,” Thompson said of Thompson III. “When the time came, I decided to go.”
Thompson is a great shooter in his own right, but his skills are particularly impressive given his 6-foot-8 frame which would allow him play shooting guard or small forward in the NBA, should he make a roster.
On that subject, Thompson says he is not looking at where he is projected to be drafted. Several mock drafts have him going in the second round, along with Sims. It’s slightly better than last year, when he was projected by many to go undrafted.
Despite his personal improvement and promising draft outlook, Thompson wasn’t completely happy with his final collegiate campaign.
“Yes and no,” he said when asked about whether he was content about the 2011-2012 season. “Progress is always good, but as far as where we left off and where I wanted us to leave off — I had big expectations for us, and we didn’t quite get it.”
Thompson said he had not watched any more basketball since the loss, and didn’t particularly care about N.C. State’s near-defeat of Kansas and status as a projected top-10 team in 2012-2013.
“There’s no comfort in losing,” he said.
The player who inspired admiration and frustration — sometimes in equal parts — in the Hoya faithful will depart to Las Vegas later to begin workouts in preparation for the draft and won’t return to the Hilltop. Thompson, unsurprisingly, didn’t and doesn’t let the criticism affect him and seems ready for the next phase of his life.
“I really want to thank everybody with me at Georgetown,” he said. “[It was a] great three and half, basically four years.”