WESTMONT – Michael Thompson is becoming a household name in the western suburbs – for basketball.
The Westmont senior is well-known for his prowess on the football field. Thompson, a wide receiver and linebacker, helped lead the Sentinels to a 5-4 record this season, the program’s first winning season since 2006.
Football is Thompson’s main sport. He remains uncommitted, but hopeful an opportunity arises to play college football.
“I’m looking to play football in college,” he said. “I’m talking to a few schools and going to make some visits soon.”
Before embarking on college visits, Thompson must attend to his business on the hardwood. Like football, the 5-foot-11 Thompson is at the forefront of another turnaround. He scored 13 points in a 65-31 rout over Peotone on Feb. 4 in the Interstate Eight Conference Tournament third-place game.
The Sentinels (21-4) have had a breakthrough season, winning 20 games for the first time in 10 years, when they finished 24-7 and won a Class 2A regional.
“We came in with more focus this year and an emphasis on defense,” Thompson said. “We wanted to come out tonight and make a statement. A lot of us seniors have played together for a long time. We’re excited about the playoffs. We have to play good defense. Our offense comes natural for us.”
Thompson said he’s enjoying playing for a winning team for the first time on varsity. He didn’t become serious about basketball until junior high.
“I just shot a lot in the backyard when I was bored when I was younger,” he said. “My mental toughness has grown since I was a sophomore. I used to get down on myself so much. I’ve grown and realize mistakes happen.”
Westmont coach Craig Etheridge said he’s enjoyed watching Thompson’s progression into a standout, reliable hooper. Thompson scored five points in a two-minute stretch between the end of the second and first 10 seconds of the third quarter against the Devils (4-18). His bounce pass on a fast break led to a layup by Matt O’Leary in the third.
“He’s a really solid athlete,” Etheridge said. “He’s one of those kids he’s really good at what he puts his mind to.”
Etheridge said the Sentinels suffered from fatigue Feb. 2, playing their third game in a 24-hour span. They played two games Feb. 2, losing to Sandwich in the I-8 semifinal. Thompson missed the final six quarters of the Feb. 2 games because of an injury.
Thompson said the Sentinels are building for a run at a regional title. Thompson, O’Leary, Troy Schlicher and Caden Anderson are all four-year varsity players.
Etheridge said the program winning 20 games is another milestone.
“It’s a milestone for every program to try and get to 20 wins,” he said. “We’ve been close a couple of times. Last year we were on pace to get it, but fell apart near the end. It’s nice to get there. I have a great group of kids. Another nice mark for them.”