By Trey Williams
Unicoi County High School junior Brock Thompson scored his 1,000th career point on Friday, Dec. 6. At the rate he’s going, he might add another thousand by this time next year.
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound combo guard scored 80 points in four games last week.
Reaching milestones is gratifying, Thompson said, but he’s far more interested in developing a winning formula with a young team. His 1,000th point came on an early 3-pointer in a 64-55 loss at Happy Valley in the Three Rivers Conference opener.
“I hit a three at the start of the game and Coach (Michael) Smith looked at me and he said, ‘Congrats on a thousand,’” Thompson said. “I knew I was getting pretty close, but that’s not really my mindset right now. We’re just trying to get used to playing together and get wins. That’s our main focus.”
First-year Blue Devils head coach John Good knows Thompson must shoulder the load, but doesn’t want the team on his back.
Thompson scored 16 points while helping Unicoi (0-1, 6-5) build a 54-25 lead midway through the third quarter in a home matchup with Chuckey-Doak on Saturday, Dec. 7, but didn’t get a field goal the rest of the way while the Knights rallied for a stunning 69-67 victory.
“The other players – they really look to him,” Good said, “and sometimes he’s having to force some offense when the other guys are not really being guarded. When it gets to crunch time they lean on him to make plays, which him and Brett (Lingerfelt) are the only guys on the team that have produced at the high school level. Everybody else, it’s their first go-around.”
Thompson scored 28 points in an 82-57 win at Cloudland on Tuesday, Dec. 3. He made three treys in that one and three more the following night en route to 13 points in an 83-71 loss at North Buncombe (North Carolina).
The setback started what had swollen to a three-game losing skid after Chuckey-Doak’s stunning rally Saturday night.
“The biggest thing we’ve gotta do is learn how to trust each other,” Thompson said. “Coach Good – he’s helping us out as much as he can. He’s got a really great foundation laid out for us, and I think it’s the best move for us as a head coach. We’ve just gotta learn how to play together and trust each other.”
Junior Robbie O’Dell is quickly building trust. He hit a 3-pointer from the right corner which gave Unicoi a 67-66 lead with 33 seconds remaining against Chuckey-Doak.
“Robbie O’Dell is a big shot maker,” Thompson said.
O’Dell was the only Blue Devil with any experience other than Thompson and Lingerfelt prior to the season, and his minutes were scarce last season as a sophomore. He made four 3-pointers and scored 18 points at North Buncombe, hit three treys against Chuckey-Doak and made a pair from behind the arc at Happy Valley.
O’Dell made significant strides this summer, particularly when Thompson was out with a broken finger.
“Robbie was probably our best player this summer,” Good said. “He shot it well. He really did a lot of good things. He’s rebounding better. We’re expecting him to do some good things.”
Freshman post Lucas Slagle has a promising future. Slagle piled up 20 rebounds and scored 11 points against Chuckey-Doak.
“Lucas is just a freshman, but he’s doing his role,” Good said. “I mean he’s getting like 20 rebounds a game. That’s amazing for a freshman. You can’t ask for much more.”
Lingerfelt and Nick Lynch scored 10 points apiece at Happy Valley. Lingerfelt made four treys and scored 18 points against North Buncombe, and Slagle added 13 points. Caleb Adkins scored 13 points in the win at Cloudland.
“We’re trying to get experience and get wins and everything at the same time, and that’s very difficult,” Good said. “You hope it’s gonna pay off in January and February, but more than likely it’s gonna pay off next year. … We’ve progressed. Last night (against Chuckey-Doak) was the best of times and the worst of times. I don’t think we quit. We panicked. And then when we had opportunities to finish we just didn’t finish.”
The Blue Devils hosted Hampton on Tuesday, Dec. 10, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue. They will host Sullivan South in Three Rivers Conference action on Friday, Dec. 13. The junior varsity team is scheduled to play at 5:10 p.m., followed by the varsity at 8 p.m.
“So it doesn’t get any easier,” Good said. “We’ll keep showing up. We’ll keep getting better.”