Jeannette rallies around newcomer Thompson

Thursday, January 6, 2022 | 7:21 PM

Basketball has been the center of Nasheed “Nas” Thompson’s universe for a long time.

From his youth days in his birthplace of Philadelphia, to his time on the high school team at Clearfield in Pennsylvania District 9, to now being a senior at Jeannette, he has grown to love the game.

It is like a force field that surrounds him and protects him.

“I’ve been playing basketball since I was 3 or 4 years old,” he said. “It keeps me busy. A lot of guys I know started with basketball and ended up in the streets, and now they’re either in prison or deceased … I promised my mother and grandmother that I wouldn’t take that route.”

Thompson, an impactful newcomer with the Jayhawks (6-2), has blended well into a new starting five since moving back to Jeannette, where his father is from.

Basketball has given him an escape from family-related issues at the core of his departure from Clearfield. And it has helped him move past a fire that took his family’s 5th Street home in Jeannette on Dec. 18.

“He’s still feeling his way around and dealing with some things from before,” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said. “He has found a way to fight through the adversity.”

Thompson said he was able to lean on his teammates and coaches during a tough time.

“My teammates really just checked up on me,” he said. “They were with me all night, and we had a game the same afternoon. We had a team meeting in the locker room and talked about cherishing every moment with each other because everything can be taken away at any moment. So, now we’re just enjoying every moment of the season.”

Batts had pizzas delivered to the hotel where the Thompson family was staying.

“I respect coach Batts for that,” Thompson said.

Batts wasn’t sure what to expect from Thompson. He knew the combo guard could play having learned about his game when the senior played for Clearfield.

It didn’t take long for him to realize what Thompson can do best.

“He just has a knack for scoring,” Batts said. “He’s an AAU kid. As much as he does on the offensive end, he can help us on the defensive end, too.”

Thompson, who can create off the dribble and deliver with a deliberate, set shot from 3-point range, scored 25 points when the Jayhawks beat Connellsville and added 24 in a win over California.

But perhaps his most impressive performance came in the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Showcase when he poured in 28 against Class 5A Latrobe.

Jeannette, a 2A program, knocked off the Wildcats, 66-59.

“I have always been a scorer,” Thompson said. “(The WPIAL) is faster (than District 9), but I am adjusting to it. We have to get better defensively as a team. We’re giving up too many points.”

Jeannette, which had to replace four starters and a few key backups, has built around Thompson and senior guard Anton Good, a third-year starter who has led the team in scoring on a couple of occasions this season.

Thompson was averaging around 19 points, Good 16.

“We have the potential to compete for the section and the WPIAL,” Good said. “We should have another shot at it.

“I am trying to be the best leader I can be. Every team needs a leader. What would the Lakers be without LeBron? I have learned from guys like Jackson Pruitt, Toby Cline and James Sanders. They taught me how to be a leader.”

A part-time starter from last year, senior Shane Mickens also is a key piece to the Jeannette puzzle and joins senior KeSean Crosby and junior Jaden Bass in the starting five.

Crosby, a first-year varsity player, is the point guard on a team whose strengths are in the backcourt.

Key reserves have been sophomore Isaiah Mallich, senior Tyler Horn and freshman Lonnie Greene.

“I am trying to get them to play consistently hard together,” Batts said. “We had some stretches against Connellsville, but we let Riverview back in the game.”

Bass and Mallich have impressed Batts, as has Horn, who was the quarterback in football.

“He hasn’t played since he was an eighth-grader,” Batts said. “He has helped us. He and Mallich have been a pleasant surprise.”

Batts said the Latrobe win told him a lot about his team.

“Latrobe makes you play hard,” he said. “They play fast. That was a really good game for us.”

Jeannette should be in the playoff mix in Section 3-2A, but highly touted and No. 2-ranked Greensburg Central Catholic will be a tough team to beat. The teams play Tuesday night at GCC.

The Jayhawks’ losses are to Class 5A West Allegheny (87-49) and Class A Leechburg (78-51).

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .


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