It’s going back a ways, back in the time of Frank Arnold, a time when he tapped into junior college recruiting and signed a player from Renton, Washington named Vern Thompson.
Thompson, had some great hops and was known for his thundering dunks in practice. He actually got off a few of them in games. Dunking was a novelty back then because the NCAA banned dunking from all college games in 1968 and reinstated it for Thompson’s senior season, almost a decade later.
Thompson played at BYU from 1975 through 1977, a time in which the Cougars struggled before landing some recruits which would give BYU some of the best seasons on record. The post-Thompson classes included Danny Ainge from Oregon’s North Eugene High School who led the Cougars to the Elite Eight. Arnold also struck gold in getting Fred Roberts and Greg Kite and a three-sport star from Hollywood, Steve Craig.
Thompson and center Jay Cheesman (Orem High) were the leading scorers back in the mid-70s. Thompson averaged 14 points a game. Other members of the squad were Mark Handy, current BYU baseball coach Vance Law, Scott Runia, Alan Taylor, Glen Roberts and Mike May.
I’m visiting my daughter in Houston this week and got an email from Thompson, who was looking for some contact information for my brother, Kent. The two used to play rat ball in the old women’s gym on University Avenue in Provo. Those were wars and any athlete who took part in those games, look upon it as something to brag about. They called the place the Mini-Mac and it was a rite of passage to keep your five guys on the court, taking on any other five who challenged.
Here’s an update on this former Cougar basketball player.
Thompson left BYU and returned to Washington where he became a police officer. He is currently the captain of the Kelso Police Department and still plays hoops whenever he gets the chance. The love for the game has never left him and he routinely keeps up with BYU basketball.
“I sure do miss playing basketball at BYU and the friends and memories that
came with college sports, ” said Thompson. “I have relived a few of those college playing days with my second son Justin and my only daughter Brianna. Brianna just finished her basketball career at Binghamton University in New York. She played a lot of basketball, despite being injured, but enjoyed her career nonetheless. “
Thompson’s son played JC ball like his father, but took it a step further than Division I.
“Justin played junior college ball at LCC in Longview,
Wash., (where I currently live) and broke seven school records before heading off to Central Washington University to finish his final two years of eligibility.
“He was a very good to great player with the ability to play pro ball (he
lacked my extremely competitive disposition). He did play pro basketball in
Le Portel, France. I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in Europe with him and toured with the team before he returned home, married, and moved to
Thompson said competition has remained in his blood all these years.
“I still play basketball at age 53 and my goal each year has been to get high
enough to dunk the basketball. I think I have finally reached the point of
when you try your first dunk, except I am exhausted after the first or
second attempt and realized that I shouldn’t have tried that.”