There are many roles that make up a band. You have the singer, drummer, guitar player, and such. But there are also the behind the scenes roles that make a band run.
Junior Kyle Thompson, a walk-on, is the perfect fit as one of those behind the scenes roles for the Hawks. Thompson came to Saint Joseph’s as a freshman walk-on in the 2014-2015 season, and his nerves were high at the time.
“I was nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect,” Thompson said. “I thought it would be more of people looking at me as lower than everyone else, because I was a walk-on. But that’s the thing that Coach [Phil] Martelli does well: everyone is on the same level.
“And that’s how Coach explains ‘Know your role.’”
In practice, Thompson takes it on himself to help the younger players as much as possible and challenge them at the same time.
"Now that I’m an upperclassman I’m more comfortable with the guys,” Thompson said. “I’m the guy in the locker room who talks a lot and is very loud and obnoxious.”
A big component of what makes Thompson important to a college basketball team is that he is tasked with emulating the Hawks’ opponents in practice. He is on what is called the “scout team.” For each game, before their practice starts, the scout team watches film and the coaches will assign Thompson as an opposing player.
“During film, I study the tendencies of the opposing team player,” Thompson said. “If he likes to shoot threes or likes to drive to the hoop. It’s crazy during the year. I never really play my game; I play everyone else’s game. And whatever helps the team win, I’ll do it.
“There are a lot of little things that people wouldn’t expect. It’s the behind the scenes stuff we do that no one hears about.”
One of the harder players Thompson said he had to study was Marcus Posley of St. Bonaventure.
“Last year, I had to be two guys on St. Bonaventure, Marcus Posley and Jaylen Adams, who is the point guard,” Thompson said. “And that game Posley had like 47 points on us. It was so hard because no one expected him to do what he did. So, in practice, we didn’t shoot as much as he did.”
On the other side of a scout team’s job, they guard the Hawk starters. Thompson had some thoughts on who he felt was the hardest to go up against in practice.
“Everyone is going to say DeAndre’ Bembry,” Thompson said. “But I’m not going to say DeAndre’; I’m going to say Aaron Brown. We have a love-hate relationship, which is I love and he hates. I always talked trashed to him when I guarded him at practice. He became one of my closer friends because of how much we had to play against each other. He is definitely tough.
“Hopefully, he doesn’t hear that.”
One of his very first practices, Thompson was thrown to the wolves. It was him and Mike Booth, another walk-on, running a drill to break the press versus the SJU starters. Terrified, the Hawks’ starters were beating them up pretty bad.
“I was hunched over, about to throw up,” Thompson said. “It was the hardest thing ever and after that practice I thought that was what it would be like every day. But good thing it’s not.”
Another thing that Thompson tries to do is keep the locker room loose. He is the guy who jokes around the most. You can see him laughing with the team after practice and taking half-court shots. In the weight room, he’s usually the one dancing. It’s just another part of the job Thompson takes seriously.
“When it’s time to get serious in practice and run the scout team, I’m always ready to do that. But at the same time, I’m the very loud one on the bus and try to make them laugh,” Thompson said. “So, I’m easy for the young guys to approach if they want to hang outside of basketball or whatever they need.”
For Thompson, playing Division I basketball has always been a dream. And to him, he found a way.
“Some people look at it as, ‘You’re a walk-on,’ and this and that, but Division I basketball is still Division I basketball,” Thompson said. “I’m able to say I’m a part of a Division I program and that means the world to me.“
A lot of people don’t get to see the type of impact Thompson makes for the Hawks, but he knows that if his teammates know it and the coaches see it that’s all that matters to him.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience,” Thompson said. “I know I’m a walk-on and I don’t play, but I wouldn’t trade it.”