HOOPS RECRUITING: Thompkins Loves UF Visit

Trey Thompkins was like a sponge Saturday afternoon. From his seat about three rows behind the Florida bench he listened, he learned, he enjoyed as he watched the fourth-ranked Gators dismantle third-ranked Ohio State at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. It was only an unofficial visit, but it left a lasting impression on the 6-9, 225-pound power forward from Oak Hill Academy.

Thompkins is the fifth rated prospect in the nation for the recruiting class of 2008. From Lithonia, Georgia, he’s going to school at the Virginia prep school powerhouse which is unbeaten and ranked number one in the nation in the USAToday poll. Thompkins is averaging nearly 18 points and 10 rebounds per game.

With the O-Dome rocking and the Gators on top of their game, Thompkins found the atmosphere as amazing as the way Florida played the total team game.

“It was an amazing atmosphere,” said Thompkins Sunday afternoon. “This was definitely a big-time college basketball game and the way the fans were into the game was really something. It was loud … really, really loud.

“The way the Gators were playing was what I wanted to see. I like that family atmosphere and team concept. I think they do that the best. Nobody’s selfish at all. Nobody cares about who’s scoring. Everybody is worried about getting the W and that’s all … just do what it takes to get the W and that’s perfect. Everybody shares the ball and everybody encourages everyone. They’re more like brothers than teammates. Coach (Billy) Donovan … what can you say? He’s a great person and you can tell he’s a smart coach. I heard all about what they got at Florida but I had to see it for myself and it’s for real.”

Thompkins found the college-town atmosphere of Gainesville a real plus. As soon as he got to Gainesville, he discovered that everything is orange and blue and the entire city is centered around the university.

“It’s a small-town atmosphere and everybody cares about the university,” he said. “The minute you hit Gainesville you start thinking about the University of Florida. Up where I live, when you think about the state of Florida you think Florida, Florida State and Miami but when you get to Florida I think more people think about Florida than the other schools. When you get to Gainesville, there’s no room for Florida State or Miami. It’s all Gators.”

He plans to major in broadcast journalism so Florida’s outstanding school of journalism is a plus. He said he wants to go to a school that combines a great athletic program with outstanding academics.

“I love it that Florida’s a real two-sport school,” he said. “They got a national championship in basketball and now they’re playing for the national championship in football. It’s obvious athletics are an important part of the school.

“Florida’s academics speak for themselves. It’s a great school and if you get a degree from Florida, that says a lot. Great athletics, great academics … they do it right there.”

The visit was enhanced by an opportunity to hook up with one of his friends, Chandler Parsons, a 6-9 forward from Winter Park’s Lake Howell High School and a member of Florida’s recruiting class of 2007.

“I know Chandler from camp in California and we’re friends,” said Thompkins. “It was great to hang around with him and he introduced me to Nick Calathes (6-6 point guard from Lake Howell, also a Florida signee for the class of 2007). Those are two great guys. I’ve seen Chandler play and I know what he can do. I know all about Nick and I know he’s a great player, too. He’s a guy that makes the players around him play better. Having Nick and Chandler at Florida definitely makes Florida a more attractive place for me to play.”

Thompkins said he’s given a lot of thought to the kind of players that he will play with at the next level. He said he likes Florida’s 2007 recruiting class and that’s a plus. In addition to Parsons and Calathes, the Gators have signed 6-9 Alex Tyus and 6-7 Adam Allen for 2007.

“I like players that can make plays but they’re unselfish,” he said. “That’s what I like about these guys. It’s important to have teammates you can trust because a lot of games are like a fight and you’ve got to have guys on the floor that won’t fizzle when the game gets tight. I think we could end up like Corey (Brewer), Joakim (Noah), Al (Horford), Taurean (Green) and Lee (Humphrey). Everybody on the team is equally unselfish and they’re like brothers.”

While he rated the visit to the Florida campus a perfect 10, he said that he is not going to be rushed into making a commitment.

“Florida’s my clear leader but this is the biggest decision of my life and you don’t rush big decisions,” he said. “I’ll make visits in the summer and if I can’t decide, then I’ll take official visits in the fall before the November signing time. I’m going to be 100 percent sure before I commit anywhere.”

Behind Florida he says it is Florida State, Georgia Tech and North Carolina in that order. He sees positives at each of those schools that could sway his decision.

FLORIDA STATE: “Coach Leonard Hamilton is one of the most straight up guys you can talk to. He does a good job of letting you see his vision for the basketball program and he sells the school really good. You can tell he wants the best for you.”

GEORGIA TECH: “Coach (Paul) Hewitt is someone I know and like. Georgia Tech is close to home, my friends and my family. Atlanta’s a great place and it’s a great school.”

NORTH CAROLINA: “They have great basketball tradition there. Coach Roy Williams gives you a good feel about the school and the basketball team. They’ve got one of the best atmospheres in college basketball.”

At some point, he knows he’s going to have to choose one school and that means he will have to tell three coaches that he likes very much that he’s made a final decision.

“That’s going to be the hardest part of all,” he said. “You know, I can’t go wrong with any of these schools but I can only choose one. That’s why I have to take my time and make sure I’m making the right decision.”

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.