WHITEHALL – Mathematics has never been one of Camden Thompson’s favorite subjects, although he admits it’s growing on him a bit.
The 6-foot-5, 178-pound Whitehall sophomore does understand angles on a basketball court, however – where the ball will ricochet off the rim, how to position himself for the carom and putting just the right touch on a shot or putback even while absorbing contact.
Ball control, body control. After growing a couple inches and adding 15 solid pounds of muscle since his freshman season, when he was voted the West Michigan Conference Player of the Year, look for Thompson to be in complete control during the 2022-23 basketball season.
That’s bad news for opponents when you consider that Thompson put up big numbers as a freshman: 18.3 points, 13.3 rebounds (7.7 defensive, 5.6 offensive), 1.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. He spent most of his time around the paint last season, but now he’ll be playing more on the wing with an ever-improving overall game.
Photos by Courtney Jimison | CatchMark
“I think I’m going to be out there (on the wing) a lot more because my shot’s gotten a lot better and I’ve got a deeper bag, as they’d say now,” he said with a smile.
“I think I’ve just got to mature a lot more and develop a lot more skills – better ballhandling, maybe more shots and just making the right decisions.”
The son of Robert and Annette Thompson and baby of the family is becoming a man before everybody’s eyes.
Thompson turned 16 only a few months ago and he’s not even driving yet. But with his athletic ability, work ethic and natural maturation, he may be just scratching the surface.
In the first two games of the season for Whitehall (2-0), tight home victories over Spring Lake (64-61) and Fruitport (57-53), Thompson has filled the stat sheet and made big plays in winning time.
Against Spring Lake, he finished with a game-high 19 points, six rebounds, three steals, three blocks and two assists. Against Fruitport, Thompson totaled a contest-best 30 points, 14 rebounds, seven steals and four blocks.
Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
“He’s going to do some big things. I would anticipate him having some pretty big games this year,” Whitehall second-year head coach Christian Subdon said. “The crazy thing about it is, we all know he’s going to be the focus of everyone’s defense. That’s a testament to him, but he’s also not willing to lose the game to get stats.”
That was the case in Whitehall’s season-opener against Spring Lake on Tuesday. Thompson picked up two early fouls and he was relegated to the bench for a large share of the first half, but he kept his composure, regrouped and led his team to victory.
By his lofty standards, Thompson finished with an “OK” stat line in that game. But he made plays when they really mattered, scoring nine points in a back-and-forth fourth quarter, including the eventual winner with 20 seconds left on a leaner in the paint off a scramble for the ball.
“He plays travel basketball with my son’s (Jaden Core) team, so I see him all summer long. Not only is he a good player, he’s a super good kid,” Spring Lake veteran coach Bill Core said following Tuesday’s game. “But I think Cam’s attributes, No. 1, he’s a great offensive rebounder and a lot of times it’s his own shot, so you’ve got to keep him off the boards. And then No. 2, he’s got such a great feel.”
Bill Core noted a particular play during a loose-ball situation while Spring Lake was trapping Whitehall on defense. Thompson handled the pressure and found fellow sophomore Kal Koehler wide open for an easy basket.
Core attributed the play to Thompson’s floor vision, along with the fact that he’s got intuition and he’s a “tough player.”
“Unfortunately (for Whitehall’s opponents), he’s just a sophomore. I root for him in the summer when he’s on my son’s team, but not now until March,” Core said with a smirk.
When it comes to sports, Thompson is far from a one-trick pony. He was a big-time playmaker as an All-WMC Lakes Division first-team wide receiver this fall.
Thompson finished with 24 receptions for 385 yards (16.0 per catch) with five touchdowns. One of his TDs was a big one: A 46-yard connection from scrambling quarterback Kyle Stratton – also Whitehall’s point guard in basketball – that tied the game at 7 late in the first half of a 28-21 regional finals heartbreaker against eventual Division 4 state champion Grand Rapids South Christian.
Thompson also was a point-scorer as a high jumper and hurdler last spring for Whitehall’s track and field team, which finished runner-up to Frankenmuth at the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Division 2 state finals.
With Thompson playing a key role, Whitehall’s 2021-22 basketball squad (18-6 record) and 2022 football team (11-1 record) broke through to the next level: Regional finals games against powerhouse private schools from Grand Rapids.
Last season, the Vikings’ basketball team won the West Michigan Conference title and captured the program’s first district crown since 2007 before advancing to a Division 2 regional finals and falling to heavyweight Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 95-63.
“I feel like we would have left an even bigger mark (in football) if we had won state, which we should’ve. It’s just unfortunate that we lost, but I think our name’s out there now for football because we weren’t really known as, like, a great program. But we’re building and getting better,” Thompson said.
“We got just as far in football as we did in basketball, but I just feel like it wasn’t as known in basketball. But I think we played pretty good when it came to all that. Everybody thought we weren’t going to make it that far (in basketball), but we just showed ourselves and we played a pretty good opponent.”
Thompson is better than “pretty good” already, but expect him to keep working. He is not the type to rest on his laurels. It’s not in his make-up. His parents were both excellent athletes and competitors and he has siblings who have earned all-state accolades and have played various levels of college sports.
Sister Rayne Thompson, a 2022 Whitehall alumna, who recently finished a strong freshman volleyball season for Division II Northern Michigan University, is an inspiration to Camden.
Annette, Rayne and Camden are all very close, he said.
“I appreciate her a lot,” Camden said about his mother, who was a multi-sport standout at Hart and also played collegiately. “Sometimes I think she’s a little too rough on me, but I think that’s just her preparing me for the world. With everything, she gives me the worst consequence possible. It’s just helping me out.”
Camden Thompson is a proponent of the multi-sport athlete. He grew up playing soccer and wouldn’t mind giving baseball a try, but when it comes down to it, basketball is his No. 1 love. It’s his goal to play it at the Division I or Division II collegiate level.
At this point, he’s drawing attention from the likes of Division I Stephen F. Austin and Division II Grand Valley State, Ferris State and Saginaw Valley State, according to Subdon. Thompson is early in the recruiting process and he’s still growing and developing.
Koehler, who has known Thompson since kindergarten and plays travel basketball with him in the summer, said his classmate has transformed his all-around game in a major way since their freshman year.
“I feel like he’s developed just as a player, all-around, everything. All the skills. He’s developed a better attitude and everything,” Koehler said.
Thompson has one mindset right now: He’s dreaming big, announcing that a state basketball title is the ultimate goal.
Thompson does not lack in confidence, but that’s not to say he’s at all cocky.
“When you get to know him, he likes to talk a little smack to you. But he’s a good teammate, he’s a good student, he’s a good son, he’s a good friend – all those things that I think are things I can’t teach him and those are instilled from his parents and just things that he’s done over time,” Subdon said.
“He’s a special kid. Obviously, he’s a great basketball player, but you can’t be great at anything unless you’re good at everything and that’s what he is.”
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