Highlights: Wizards 93, Heat 103
Hollis Thompson left Georgetown as the program's all-time leading 3-point shooter. The 6-foot-8 swingman left the Hilltop after his junior season, armed with a textbook jumper and dreams of reaching the NBA.
Some 18 months later, after not hearing his name called on draft night and spending last season in the D-League, Thompson found his way. All the way to the Philadelphia 76ers, all the way to making his NBA debut inside the same arena he played in on the college level. The Southern California native certainly didn't take a direct route, but Thompson has no regrets about any prior steps taken.
"This is my path. Everybody's path is different," Thompson said. "This is mine."
Thompson, 22, made those comments inside the visiting locker room at Verizon Center shortly before the 76ers faced and eventually defeated the Wizards on Friday night. He sat on a chair in front of a corner locker where his 76ers No. 31 jersey hung and just down the hall from where he dressed pre and post game with Georgetown.
As a junior, he averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds. Over three seasons with the Hoyas he shot 44 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. After leaving Georgetown following the 2011-12 season, Thompson worked out for several teams before the 2012 NBA Draft, including the Wizards during the same session as then-prospect Bradley Beal. Even with his perimeter prowess, Thompson went undrafted. Though he hooked up with Oklahoma City for preseason, the Thunder waived before the games turned real.
The Big East honorable mention candidate then spent the next season learning his craft with the Tulsa 66ers, averaging 8.1 points in 48 games for the D-League franchise. That led to stint with the San Antonio Spurs during this year's Las Vegas Summer League, which led to the rebuilding 76ers contacting Thompson's agent shortly before training camp.
Philadelphia's "plan" for the upcoming season involved a significant roster turnover, the kind that seemingly put a focus on finishing high in the 2014 NBA Draft lottery. Of course, as the Wizards found out on Friday, apparently nobody told the young 76ers about the idea of "tanking." At 3-0, Philadelphia is one of two remaining undefeated teams in the Eastern Conference.
"It's been a lot of fun, a lot young guys, a lot of new guys to the team in general," said Thompson, who played 10 scoreless minutes off the bench against Washington. "I think we're all just kind of learning and gelling and meshing. It's been a lot of fun so far."
Asked about having a year on the pro level to prep for the highest pro level, Thompson said, "I think it's been very good for me. I got a chance to learn the game at the professional level. It's a very different game, so I think I got to learn and adapt my game."
Specifically Thompson said he focused on defense and rebounding, two areas he struggled with at times during his three seasons with Georgetown.
As for a certain read-and-react offense run by John Thompson III - no relation - Hollis Thompson echoed recent comments by his former head coach about the benefits for those advancing to the pro game.
"You always have plays but at the same time you have to read what the defender is doing," Thompson said. "Defense is playing you one way, you have to adjust and adapt. I think that's something I've gotten pretty good at from Georgetown."
Hardly a lock for a roster spot entering training camp, Thompson said he know idea if he would make the 76ers "until they told me." For now, he's still living in a Philadelphia hotel with no thoughts on a more permanent situation - and no regrets about leaving school early.
"You're in front of me. I'm taking it one day at a time. I'm worried about the Washington Wizards right now," Thompson cracked before Friday's game.
After 18 months of looking for a professional home, the all-smiles Thompson is content living in the moment.