FGCU's Bernard Thompson scores against San Diego State on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. / Kinfay Moroti/news-press.com
Name: Bernard Thompson
Hometown: Conyers, Ga.
Quote: “It’s not one man’s team; it’s everybody’s team. Everybody contributes to the game.”
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Bernard Thompson might not be the face of the FGCU men’s basketball team’s highlight-reel run through the NCAA tournament, but he’s the epitome of what’s carried the Eagles to unexpected heights.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard is the hoops version of a Swiss Army knife.
Need defense? Thompson, the Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year, is the team’s best on-the-ball defender. He also leads the nation in steals with 102 and his 2.83 per game average ranks fourth.
How about scoring? Thompson poured in a team-high 23 points in last Sunday’s 81-71 win over San Diego State. He’s FGCU second-leading scorer, averaging 14.5 points per game.
Thompson also ranks second on the Eagles in assists (1.8 per game) and 3-pointers made (53) and is tied for third in rebounds (4.5 per game).
His deafening contributions on the court are belied by his quiet demeanor off it.
“We came in together so I know him probably the best of anybody on the team,” said FGCU sophomore point guard Brett Comer. “Bernard’s a very quiet guy, off the court he keeps to himself.
“On the court, there’s a reason we call him ‘Smooth.’ He’s a big key for our team offensively and obviously defensively. He had (23) points against San Diego State, but you would never know it. He does it in a quiet way but a smooth way.”
FGCU assistant coach Kevin Norris said while the 20-year-old Thompson gets the most attention for his defense, his offensive game is equally potent.
“He scores the ball any way you want,” Norris said. “He’s shooting the long ball, he has a nice mid-range jumper, he gets to the rack. He’s not just a defender, he’s another side of the ball guy.
“Coach (Marty) Richter has worked with him on floaters. The Euro step, where did he get that from? Me. I gotta have a little footprint in something.”
Thompson’s personality appears perfectly suited for FGCU’s egalitarian system where at any given time, anybody can shine.
“Everybody’s on the same level,” said Thompson, who joined the Eagles out of Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Ga. “It’s not one man’s team; it’s everybody’s team. Everybody contributes to the game and that’s what’s keeping us winning. You check the stats and it’s three guys that have 10, 15 points. That’s a good thing to see.”
As for the suffocating national media spotlight that’s centered on FGCU since last weekend’s upset wins, Thompson said he’s trying his best to enjoy it. It seems like he’s doing a pretty good job, considering the mile-wide smile he’s showcased every time a camera rolls.
“I’m a quiet person; I don’t really let all the attention get to me,” he said. “I just try to stay humble out there, stay calm and be myself.”
For Thompson and for FGCU, that’s been more than enough.
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