CHEYENNE – A realization washed over Hunter Thompson as he sat in Denver International Airport waiting to board a plane bound for a tournament with his Utah Prospects AAU team.
At the time, the Pine Bluffs senior was committed to play basketball at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. It was in the airport that Thompson realized how much he needed the extra support of friends, family and home. He wasn’t going to be able to get that 450 miles down Interstate 80.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I even started to tear up,” he said. “I realized how important Wyoming was to me and everything Wyoming had to offer other than just basketball and academics. I realized that I needed to re-evaluate things.”
The 6-foot-10, 235-pound forward verbally committed to the University of Wyoming on Monday. He is listed as a four-star recruit (out of a possible five) by ESPN.com and a three-star recruit by both Rivals.com and 247sports.com.
Not only will Thompson be roughly 100 miles from home, he also has a support system of friends and family who attend UW.
“It’s going to be a lot easier to adjust to college life and college basketball there,” Thompson said. “I’m not going to feel alone. It’s going to be awesome seeing everyone I’ve played with and having them cheer me on for another four or five years.”
Thompson verbally committed to Creighton in mid-March, shortly after helping lead Pine Bluffs to its first Class 2A state championship since 1983. He backtracked on that pledge in mid-July.
“It was hard (to decommit) because of how close I got to the coaches during the recruiting process and how excited they were when I committed and how in awe my family was about everything Creighton had to offer,” Thompson said. “I’m a people-pleaser and don’t like to disappoint anyone, and I was beating myself up worse about decommitting than I should have.
“(Creighton’s) coaches were really supportive of me and appreciated that I recognized it early enough in the recruiting process that they could get out there and find someone to fill my scholarship. It was still a hard phone call to make.”
Thompson won’t be on an athletic scholarship next fall because first-year Cowboys coach Allen Edwards is holding on to his final scholarship while trying to recruit a wing player.
Thompson – who figures to be a power forward with perimeter skills – will attend UW on a Hathaway Scholarship before being put on an athletic scholarship in 2018.
“I won’t be considered an NCAA Division I signee, but that doesn’t affect where my heart and mind want to go,” Thompson said. “I’d rather be happy and pay a little bit of money for one year than potentially be miserable and not pay anything.”
Thompson has earned All-Class 2A honors each of his three seasons in Pine Bluffs. He averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds last season and has average 17.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.7 blocks and 1.3 assists in 84 career games.
In addition to Creighton and UW, Thompson also had scholarship offers from Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah State. UNLV had expressed some interest in his services after he decommitted from Creighton.