On a cold February day in 2010, the Rider Broncs traveled to Hempstead, N.Y., to take on the Pride of Hofstra University, a former East Coast Conference rival. Senior Ryan Thompson, already more than midway through an exceptional final season, stepped onto the hardwood eager to face a team the Broncs had not met in more than eight years.
Thompson remembers fighting from behind the entire game, and while the final score gave Hofstra the win – 92 to 89 in overtime – it was at this game that Thompson scored a college career high 38 points and moved into fourth place on the all-time Rider scoring list with 1,809 points. And his career hasn’t slowed up since.
Thompson, now 27, grew up in Mt. Laurel, N.J. He played soccer most of his childhood but can remember playing basketball as early as 4. A standout at Lenape High School, Thompson earned numerous accolades and basketball honors, including Group IV MVP and Burlington County Player of the Year. At six-foot-six, he towered over just about everyone at his mid-size suburban high school, except maybe his six-foot-eleven older brother, Jason, who was already a sophomore blazing up the court at nearby Rider University.
Thompson decided to follow in his brother’s footsteps and signed on to be a Bronc. Playing under head coach Tommy Dempsey, Thompson made his own personal mark on Rider basketball history, graduating third in scoring, eighth in rebounding and seventh in assists, making him the only Bronc in the top eight in all three categories.
After graduating from Rider with a degree in business management, he played with the Utah Flash of the NBA Development League before signing with the Basket Brescia Leonessa of the Italian Legadue Basket for the 2011-2012 season. He later won the Belgian League and Belgian Cup with Telenet Oostende during the 2013-2014 season, averaging 16.3 points, 2.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds.
The following year, he signed with Brose Baskets of Germany, one of 18 teams in the Basketball Bundesligathe, the highest level league of professional club basketball in that country. Thompson once again helped lead this team to the 2015 championship. Thompson moved on from there to a one-year deal with Crvenda zvezda, a professional basketball club based in Belgrade, but in December 2015 he parted ways with the team and inked a deal with Trabzonspor in Turkey.
During one of his many visits back to Rider in the summer of 2015, Thompson said he likes playing basketball in Europe because the fans are so passionate. “They live for the game,” he said. “The whole city supports the team. Fans take it very seriously. Living and playing overseas is a great way of life, though I do miss being at home. That is the hardest part.”
Ryan and Jason, who plays in the NBA, return to campus often for alumni games, special events, youth camps and reunions. "I still feel very connected to this campus, and to my university," Thompson said. “I like working with the younger players. I was in their shoes once and looking for someone’s footsteps to follow. They give me motivation and keep pushing me to play at the highest level.”