Athens — Trey Thompkins, the University of Georgia’s best basketball player, told me on Wednesday what he told coach Mark Fox a few days before: He’s staying.
Since the January firing of the coach who recruited him, Dennis Felton, Thompkins had left open the possibility that he would transfer to another school this summer.
He considered it, but in the end decided not to do it.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t know what to think when that first happened,” Thompkins said Wednesday of Felton’s firing. “It wasn’t a shock [because of the rumors], but it was a wow. I didn’t think they’d fire a coach in the middle of the season.”
Thompkins tried to put his future out of his mind as the Bulldogs finished the season under interim coach Pete Herrmann. When Fox, a complete unknown to Georgia’s players, was hired from Nevada in early April, Thompkins adopted an open mind about whether to go or stay.
As he got to know the new coach, he said, he decided to stay.
“Our relationship had a lot to do with my decision,” he said. “We talked about it, and I decided I want to stay.”
Thompkins said he likes Fox’s intensity, approachability and communicativeness. He also said “personal family reasons” figured in his decision.
Fox said Thompkins “has worked very hard” and “has had a smile on his face” since Fox got here. But it wasn’t until a few days ago that Thompkins told Fox he’d be sticking around.
“Trey had a difficult year, a traumatic year, like a lot of the guys,” Fox said Wednesday. “He had some legitimate concerns. He never said he was going to transfer, but [now] he has said he’s going to be back.”
Fox figured Thompkins deserved time to get to know the new coach: “I think, with all of [the players], we have to educate them in what we envision, how we’re going to function.”
And Fox figures Thompkins, a 6-foot-9 forward who was Georgia’s leading rebounder (7.4 per game) and second leading scorer (12.6 per game) as a freshman, took note that three big men who played for Fox at Nevada went on to the NBA. And not one of them was nearly as heavily recruited out of high school as Thompkins.
Fox will be looking to Thompkins to do some serious scoring on a team that lacks scorers. “He’s got a real savvy about him offensively,” Fox said.
Now that this decision is made, Thompkins looks forward to a busy summer. He has been invited to try out for the USA Basketball 19-and-under national team. He’ll report to Colorado Springs for tryouts on June 16. If he makes the team, he’ll compete in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand, July 2-12.