D.J. Thompson works to rehab injured heel
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
D.J. Thompson always gets a little whimsical when he returns to the Holmes Center.
Thompson, Appalachian State's point guard from 2003-07, was in town watching the Mountaineers beat Georgia Southern 81-68 Saturday. One day earlier, Thompson visited Lentz-Eggers Gym to see Hickory beat Watauga in prep basketball.
Thompson has been a world traveler during his professional basketball career. Since his graduation in 2006, Thompson has played professionally in Poland, Greece, France, and most recently, in Turkey.
"It's been great," Thompson said. "I've been able to travel the world. I'm seeing different places; different cultures and I've met different people and teammates along the way. It's been a great experience."
Thompson plays for a team called Balikesir, a second-tier team in Turkey, since October. It is his second tour in Turkey. He also played for Antalya, BB in 2009-10.
Thompson has been sitting much of the 2013-14 season after tearing his Achilles Heel. He was averaging 14.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game before his injury, and scored a season high 26 points on Nov. 16.
"I had my surgery on Dec. 3 and now I'm in the process of rehabbing," Thompson said.
Thompson said the league he plays in is "pretty good." He said the action isn't quite as fast or as athletic as it is in the United States, but the players make up for it by playing smart basketball.
"It's probably not as good as the first division, but we have got good Turkish players, too," Thompson said. "I was having fun. Our team was winning. I got hurt, and now I'm just trying to regroup and get back to where we were."
Thompson said it's important to be friends with any American teammates when possible. He said that he is a friend with Western Kentucky product Juan Pattillo, who is the center for Balikesir.
Thompson said he does not know much Turkish, so it's good to get along with any Americans on the roster.
"He is really good," Thompson said. "On this team I'm on, it only has two Americans. It's important that you bond with that other American because a lot of times, your teammates aren't really comfortable speaking English. With the little English they know, they're a little shy about speaking it. If you don't get along, it makes the season really hard."
Thompson, who stands 5-foot-8, was a key element for the Mountaineers during one of their best stretches in the 21st century. The 2006-07 team, led by Thompson, fellow guards Nate Cranford and Demetrius Scott, and forward Donte Minter, finished 25-8 overall, 15-3 in the Southern Conference, and earned an at-large bid to the NIT.
The Mountaineers also beat Virginia, Central Florida and Vanderbilt to win the San Juan Shootout, and beat Wichita State 60-58, on the road, to win App State's first game in the BracketBusters event.
App State also beat Davidson and Virginia Commonwealth that season. Thompson averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 assists and 3.3 rebounds during that season. The Mountaineers fell to College of Charleston in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament, which kept them from advancing into the NCAA tournament.
"I think I'm over it, but it's definitely something I remember," Thompson said of the College of Charleston game. "It was a fun season. We brought Donte in and that was like the missing piece."
Thompson, who prepped at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, was happy to be back in Boone, even with the cold weather.
"I was not prepared for this," Thompson said. "I thought it was cold in Raleigh and then I got here and opened the door and it was snowing and windy. This is the Boone I remember, though."
Thompson was unsure what his next move would be.
"I'm going to talk to them before I leave and see if they want me," Thompson said. "I'm not sure really."