For new Skyliner Michael Thompson, jumping on a plane recently and jetting to wine country Treviso,Italy to join the Fraport Skyliners for a one week training camp must have felt as comfortable for the man that is known as the juice as if Paris Hilton had involuntarily been caught at a Mcdonalds, but finding swank delicious caviar in her Happy meal, actor George Clooney arriving anywhere in the world and being given not one, but two sexy Miss Universe ladies for both arms and Justin Bieber not having men jeans ready for him upon arrival in his hotel room, but ladies jeans since they fit better than pieces designed for men. There are many different kind of juices, but the fact remains that wine is a juice which is a beverage made of the fermented juice of any of various kinds of grapes, usually containing from 10 to 15 percent alcohol by volume. Thompson is a rookie coming from Northwestern and has a try-out with the Fraport Skyliners and at the age of 22 still a young buck which could due to time graduate from innocent Cool-Aid juice to the disciplined and elegant taste of fabulous Italian wine.
Thompson is a 22 year old 177cm point guard from Chicago, Illinois that has come to Europe to start his basketball career with the Fraport Skyliners getting a three week try-out. He played four years at Northwestern in Chicago which has had as much success with not winning on the basketball court as the Chicago Cubs have had not winning on the baseball field, the Buffalo Bills looking depressed after 48 minutes in Super Bowl finals and Ivan Lendl wondering why he was never able to win on the hallow cow pastures of Wimbeldon. Even though Northwestern were basketball national champs in 1931, the school has been more known recently for the womans lacrosse team that won 5 consecutive NCAA titles from 2005-2009 and their football program which has been in the AP top 10, 73 times since 1936 and reached bowl games like the Citrus, Alamo and Rose, but haven´t won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose Bowl. The biggest success that Thompson had on the court was reaching the NIT Elite 8 in 2011, so it may not be uncommon that his nickname juice might have stirred more interest at times then the chances of Northwestern beating a Duke. His nickname has less to do with his quick moves, but more with his shot from Michigan avenue. “The nickname Juice originated in 7th grade. Playing basketball at a local gym I would say “Juice” every time I shot a 3 pointer and that day I made almost all of my 3 pointers. People asked why I would say “Juice” and I would tell them that my jump shot is 100% pure like juice. Since that day the name Juice has stuck with me and everyone calls me Juice”, stressed Michael Thompson. It also doesn´t bother Thompson that he has the same nickname as the infamous OJ Simpson who will most likely be known more for his famous summer 1994 Bronco chase on the Los Angeles free ways or trying to fit the black gloves on his hands than rushing 11,236 yards in the NFL placing him currently at 17th place. “I think its cool to have the same nickname as a great football player who accomplished many things in his professional football career. However, I want to create my own identity in the basketball world with the same nickname. Athletically I want to have an impact similar to what OJ Simpson had on the professional football world in the later years of his career beginning in the 1972 season. Simpson was an explosive athlete that set many records and I want to go down in history as a great professional basketball player like OJ Simpson did.”.stressed Michael Thompson Thompson played at Northwestern from 2007-2011 and quickly showed that shooting successfully and over 40% from downtown Chicago is as natural as Dashaun Wood scrambling in the lane, getting past 3 defenders and falling to his right and some how releasing the ball and seeing it trickle in as he is watching from the floor, Tim Thomas somehow keeping his net clean and making the most incredible saves the past season for the Boston Bruins and leading them to the Stanley Cup win or Charlie Sheen ordering champagne and chicks for a snack in Malibu. Thompson nearly shot over 40% from the parking lot for all four season just missing with 39,3% in his senior year. Despite his nickname Juice for his three point accuracy, the American sees his game as so much more versatile, which he needs to have as a point guard. “My biggest strength on the court is my ability to run a team. Being a Point Guard is more than dribbling the ball up the court, as a Point Guard you got to be able to play defense, control the tempo of the game, and be able to score or set up your teammate in the right position. So overall I think my feel for the game and ability to understand what is needed in certain situations is my biggest strength along with my jump shot”, stressed Michael Thompson. This season there will be many smaller point guards in the Beko BBL like s. Oliver Baskets Achmadschah Zazai or David Holston from the Artland Dragons and Michael Thompson will also belong to this group. A Dashaun Wood who will run the Alba Berlin team will seem like a giant at 185cm. Thompson who describes his game to Dallas Mavericks standout Jose Barrea knows that showing pit bull qualities will be a must in order to withstand the court wildernesses of the Beko BBL. “My toughness is a strength that doesn´t get noticed right away, when people see me they automatically assume I’m not good and I’m just some undersized basketball player, but once people watch me I think they notice how hard I play along with my passion and love for the game of basketball”, warned Michael Thompson.
Despite never reaching the big show at the NCAA tournament and making a name at March Madness, Thompson was known as a player that knew how to lead the team. As Henry Kissinger once said, “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been”. One needs to experience situations where a team can count on you. Thompson showed time in and time out again of stepping up for Northwestern in times of adversity. In his senior year, Thompson played 34 games averaging 16.3ppg, 2.2rpg, 4.3apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 45.2%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 82.5%. The American seemed to get better as his senior year wore on and his leadership qualities shone as bright as the sun in the Sahara desert and was never brighter than when needing a win to keep NIT hopes alive in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Juice posted 35 points on 11-for-22 shooting and a shooting percentage of 67.8 shooting. In the three NIT games, he averaged 20.0 points per game and shot 42.9 percent from outside and 56.1 percent field goal percentage. He didn´t disappoint in his final 10 games at Northwestern as he averaged 20.7 points per game, shot 44.0 percent from the three point line and a 56.0 percent field goal percentage. He helped Northwestern reach the elite 8 at the NIT tournament. The NIT tournament wasn´t the NCAA tournament, but his leadership was never more in demand than in these last months of the 2010- 2011 season. “Leadership qualities came from years of studying game film which I still do to this day, I watch other great Point Guards and leaders and try to take things away from them. I also ask my coaches a lot of questions so I can be an extension of the court on the court. I also try my best to understand each of my teammates strengths and weaknesses so I can put them in the best position possible so they can succeed. Each day, I try to become a better leader”, stressed Michael Thompson. During the course of the season leading up to the NIT tournament, Thompson had many memorable games even the 65-62 loss to top NCAA club 65-62 where he scored 9 of the teams last 12 points in the loss. “The comeback in the bitter loss to Michigan State was unforgettable even though we didn’t complete the comeback and win the game. The atmosphere in the arena was amazing, everyone was on their feet and we felt as though we were going to win the game. Michigan State is a great team with a great coach and they came together and pulled out the win, but for us (Northwestern Wildcats) we learned a lot from that game and carried that momentum forward to the remainder of the season”, expressed Michael Thompson. Despite all the basketball memories at Northwestern and new ones to be made in the Beko BBL with the Fraport Skyliners, he has one memory still in his head from his childhood. “The most amazing thing I’ve ever done in a game was when I was a kid playing in the semi-finals of a basketball league. My team was down 3 points and I got fouled with 2 seconds left in the game. I made the first free throw, missed the second free throw on purpose, got my own rebound and made the shot as time expired to send the game into overtime. I don’t know how I got my own rebound and made the shot in 2 seconds, but I wasn’t going to argue that. Fortunately, my team was able to win the game in overtime to advance to the championship”, added Michael Thompson.
Thompson now is in the midst in a basketball try-out with the Fraport Skyliners and didn´t have it easy coming a few weeks after the start of training camp to the team in Italy. He showed positive strides in his first two test games in Italy, but the transition from the NCAA to Europe is about as big as a sub that New England Patriots offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer might eat as a pre game meal. “The transition from NCAA to pro ranks has been tough, but with the guidance from veteran players such as Justin Gray and Quantez Robertson my transition hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be. I know there is still a lot of room for improvement, but as of now I am happy with the way things are going”, smiled Michael Thompson. A player that seems to have taken the American under his wing is new Skyliner Justin Gray who played together in the NCAA with Chris Paul and has played in countries like Belgium, the Czech Republic and China. Gray can score from downtown like Thompson, but most importantly is that leadership is something that they have in common which has helped him adjust more easily. “Justin Gray is a great player offensively and defensively. He is also a leader. I’m always asking him questions about his professional experience. He is a veteran with a lot of knowledge. He is teaching me how to lead and he doesn’t even know it. Justin has taught me a lot on the court. He has helped me with the offense, explains to me what coach wants in certain situations, and most importantly he is showing me what works and doesn’t work professionally. Playing professional basketball in Europe is a lot different than college and with the help of Justin I feel I am making the transition pretty smoothly”, commented Michael Thompson. Not only has Thompson been able to learn from Justin Gray, but has picked up important basketball tips from Skyliner head coach Muli Katzurin. “I’ve learned a lot from coach Muli Katzurin in one week. He is molding me into a better professional point guard. First off coach Muli Katzurin is a winner, so I’m learning what it takes to win at the professional level. I’ve learned what pace to play at during certain times of the game, what and what isn’t a good shot selection, and many defensive tactics. Each time coach gives us a new defense he explains in depth why we use it and how it should be ran, I think that is important for teams so they understand exactly how things should be done”, said Michael Thompson.
As a rookie, Thompson won´t have easy shoes to fill as he will have heard the one or other amazing basketball story about 2011 Beko BBL MVP Dashaun Wood from Marius Nolte, Quantez Roberston or Jimmy Mckinney, but Skyliner fans no doubt will have the quickness of Dashaun Wood still dancing in their heads like an NBA title is in the head of Lebron James and might see even a smaller version of Mr road runner Dashaun Wood sprinting into the zone this season with Thompson. “Quickness will play a major role in my success. I’m only 5’10 so for the most part I’ll be the smallest guy on the court, so when I have someone guarding me that is taller than me I have to use my quickness and speed to get around them and create a scoring opportunity for my teammates or myself. Defensively, I have to use my quickness to cause chaos for the other team whether I’m guarding a guard, forward, or center. Quickness will be huge for my success”, stressed Michael Thompson. There are many unique things in life like seeing a falling star, finding a four leaf clover or seeing a total eclipse of the sun, but a unique thing about Michael Thompson is that he plays bigger than he really is. “With shoes I’m 5’10, but I play like I’m 6’4. I’m not afraid to go inside and battle with people that are a foot taller than me or much stronger than me. I play each game, each possession, each second like its my last time playing. I feel if I was any taller I wouldn’t be the person that I am and I wouldn’t be as unique”, warned Michael Thompson.
After getting his first impression of Europe enjoying the beautiful area of Treviso/Venice, he is back in Franfurt preparing with the team for the upcoming season. Thompson got a quick idea of how professional the Fraport Skyliners organization is and of course will give his all in staying past the try-out period and making a name in his rookie season. He will have fond memories of the first few days in Italy where he seemed to be anything but home sick. “My coolest experience in Italy would be the team bonding event. The entire team went canoeing with the coaching staff, sponsors, and other representatives of the Fraport Skyliners organization. Canoeing was a new experience for me, but being with my teammates and us helping each other through and encouraging one another really brought us closer together”, added Michael Thompson. Last season, Skyliner fans were pampered with electrifying dunks from ex NBA player Roger Powell or Lufthansa flights to the basket by Quantez Robertson who were usually set up by Dashaun Wood. This season, it very well could be Thompson who will be feeding the ball to Quantez Super Tez Robertson. Frankfurter Krantz cake is a well known dessert from Frankfurt, but not on the menu from the American who has another special unique sweet ally-op offering between him and Quantez Robertson ready. “Quantez Robertson is very athletic and explosive so the plan is definitely to throw him a lot of alley-oops. We have some other people on the team that are athletic so I expect to throw a lot alley-oops. The perfect alley-op between me and Tez in desert style would be a piece of Tiramisu. Tiramisu looks really good, taste good, and in Italy was a desert that our team couldn’t get enough of”, stated Michael Thompson. No matter what Thompson will do on the court this season for the Fraport Skyliners, he will have sweet dessert plays ready in leading the team into the playoffs.