LaSalle Thompson Teaches Youth Through Fundamentals 1st Basketball Program
Photographer / Ron Wise
In the world of basketball, LaSalle Thompson III is a “walking miracle” as he likes to refer to himself and his experience. With the nickname “Peewee”, playing high school, college and professional basketball did not seem like a realistic dream. But with hard work, determination and a supportive family his dream became a reality.
Thompson readily admits he was the shortest player on 99 percent of his teams since middle school, and he didn’t need a guarantee his dreams would work out. He just needed it to be possible. Since 2005, he has been inspiring and teaching boys and girls from second grade all the way through to the NBA the fundamentals of basketball and the lessons he has learned on and off the court.
As a four-year starter at Pike High School, Thompson, an Indiana All-Star player in 1981, had a deep passion for basketball and a burning desire to play at the college level. He was able to make that happen at Indiana State for two years before transferring to Ball State to play his last two years.
During his senior year at Ball State, his wife Tonja, who was working on her master’s degree there after graduating from Indiana University, gave birth to their firstborn son, PJ. The couple met in middle school but began dating his junior year at Pike. The dream and desire to play at the professional level was strong but the reality that he now had a wife and a child to provide for meant he would have to put his dream on hold.
Thompson got creative with the time he had working full time in the hospitality industry, eventually getting into management and working 12-hour days. He worked out at 5 a.m. before work and then joined men’s basketball leagues and headed back to the gym to stay sharp and be around basketball.
By staying on top of his game, the opportunity came knocking three years later. He was invited to play on an Athletes in Action team that consisted of current professional basketball players in Europe that were playing in an exhibition game against the Notre Dame Men’s Basketball team. Thompson was the only player not playing professionally, and he picked a great day to have his best game. Two scouts were there and, after a brief conversation, Thompson’s dream became reality. Within a matter of weeks, the agents put something together and he was signed to play in Norway. Thompson would eventually go on to play in Italy and then Germany but always returned home during the summers.
Thompson’s son PJ, one of the senior leaders instrumental in the success with the Purdue University Men’s Basketball Team, has been pursued by agents to play professionally in Europe. Thompson’s youngest son, Isaiah will play ball at Purdue in 2019. Thompson was not that lucky, he did not have any guidance with agents knocking on his door. He just had a dream and a desire so strong that he created an unrivaled work ethic.
“None of this would have been possible without my wife’s support,” he says. “She always understood my dreams and my desires and aspirations, and she sacrificed giving me her blessing to pursue this path.”
Thompson describes his journey from high school through his time playing professionally as a miracle. But his opportunities were hardly from luck, rather from being committed and doing whatever it took to achieve this goal.
“I was always the shortest player on the team, but I knew to play at the next level I would have to work harder than anyone else,” Thompson says.
After achieving his dream, he began to think about the future. He knew that eventually, he would want to get into coaching and by June of 2005, he was approached by two fathers while working out in the gym. They wanted to know if he would work with their sons over the summer. Word got around and by the beginning of August, he now had 30-35 kids working with him without any advertising. The opportunity to transition from his professional career to be with his young family and start the next season of his life as a coach and a trainer had arrived.
He launched Fundamentals 1st Basketball Program training individuals, groups and teams and developed the Indianapolis Ice AAU Basketball Teams.
The opportunity to build relationships with his players, the kids in his training program and be able to coach his own sons’ basketball teams, he knew this was his purpose. Thompson coaches his players to be underdogs regardless of their size.
“I always had a chip on my shoulder about being the shortest,” he says. “I had to prove myself.”
He brings that mentality to his training program to give the kids an advantage regardless of their size. Most importantly, he wants to help show these young boys and girls that anything is possible. He is passionate about coaching and training the way he approached being a player.
“I want them to believe in their dreams and pursue it with everything they have regardless of what others say,” Thompson says. “I am living proof that anything is possible.”
For information about training with Thompson at Fundamentals 1st Basketball Program or try out for one of the Indy Ice AAU programs, contact him at 317-432-1181 or email him at email@example.com.