Lima Senior grad Thompson resilient in hoops career


Lima Senior graduate Rion Thompson is averaging nearly 14 points a game at Bowling Green State University.

Lima Senior graduate Rion Thompson is averaging nearly 14 points a game at Bowling Green State University.


Submitted photo

Bob Seggerson

Bob Seggerson


Submitted photo

It may be difficult to believe but Rion Thompson’s remarkable basketball journey, that carried her from a Lima Senior High legend to Bowling Green State University’s leading scorer, began with Superman ice cream.

“When I was little, my mom and dad got me involved in everything,” Rion says. “I was in soccer, karate, dance and they also took me to the YMCA youth basketball program on the weekends. I kept going back to the “Y” because they always gave us Superman ice cream. Eventually basketball just stuck with me and I fell in love with the game,” she says.

Rion’s father, Dexter Thompson, remembers the day he realized that she was a special athlete. “I went to pick her up and had a chance to watch her play basketball when she was around 7 years old and she was terrific,” he remembers. “When I asked her if she knew how good she was, she told me, ‘I beat the boys all the time.’ ”

Thompson comes by her athleticism naturally. Her uncle, the late Anthony “AT” Thompson, was one of the most decorated and popular basketball players in Spartan history. “My brother would be so proud of what she’s accomplished, he would get such a kick out of her,” Dexter says. Rion, who was only 2 years old when “AT” passed away, knows his story well. “I’ve heard all the stories about him, I only wish I could have seen him play,” she says.

Rion’s own Lima Senior High basketball career was legendary. Playing for coach Vince Halliday, she finished as the leading scorer in Spartan history with 1,901 points including a school record 46 points in a game against Celina. Thompson was named All Ohio in three consecutive years and Player of the Year in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference. She has fond recollections of those days. “I loved playing with Indiya Benjamin and Essence Cowan, they were such great leaders,” she says. “And it was fun playing for coach Halliday.”

Thompson’s basketball career at BGSU got off to a modest start but she was in the playing rotation her first two years. An injury just before the beginning of last season presented Rion with the greatest challenge of her athletic career. Just weeks before the start of pre-season, a serious foot injury shut down Thompson for the entire basketball season. “It was the worst possible timing,” remembers Rion. “Bowling Green had just hired a new head basketball coach (Robyn Fralich) and she had fresh eyes. It was frustrating because I was anxious to show her what kind of player I was. But all I could do was sit and watch.”

Thompson’s season ending injury was not the only hurdle she faced. “My dad was diagnosed with cancer and began treatment,” she says. Facing the dual challenge of rehabbing her injury and dealing with her father’s illness and treatment was her focus for an entire year.

Looking back Rion remembers, “My dad’s cancer was my biggest mental hurdle but it empowered me to get back and get healthy so he could watch me play again.” Her mother, Catalina Thompson, also kept her locked in. My mom and dad are the most powerful influences in my life. I got through all of it because of my family, my faith and prayer.”

Rion also found inspiration in a biblical interpretation. “There was a line that caught my attention,” she says. It was ‘Fear has no power over faith,’ and it became so important to me, I had the verse tattooed on my calf.”

Thompson has made it all the way back and then some. Her dad has been given a clean bill of health and Rion began this season renewed and eager to establish herself as a team leader. She scored a team high 20 points while leading the Falcons to a win over Cleveland State in their home opener at the Stroh Center, her first game in more than a year. She is averaging nearly 14 points and five rebounds a game through 17 contests.

In the meantime, the Falcons head coach, Robyn Fralich, has chartered a new course for BGSU women’s basketball and Thompson is sold on her vision for the program. “Coach Fralich is a big believer in core values and that each teammate matters,” Thompson says. “She has us believing that we play and fight for each other and we need everyone to be successful. I value that approach and I believe it’s working,” she added.

Rion, who was named to the Academic All-MAC team and carries a 3.34 grade point average, has a vision of where she hopes basketball will take her. “My dream is to play a couple years of professional basketball in Europe after graduation and then get into coaching women’s basketball at the college level,” she says. Judging from Thompson’s basketball career to this point and her ability to overcome difficult challenges, she is a good bet to see her dreams come true.

Rion Thompson has come a long way since Superman ice cream lured her into the gym.

Also on the Falcons is Ottawa-Glandorf grad Kadie Hempfling, who is averaging nearly 10 points and a team leading 7.8 rebounds a game. She also leads the Falcons with 77 assists.

Correction: In my column a couple weeks ago, about the 1943 Central basketball team, I noted that Ken Harrod was the only surviving member of that squad. I am happy to report that Ken’s former teammate, Bill Brinkmeyer, is alive and well and still kicking it in Paso Robles, California, and delighted that the story of his high school’s run to state is still a topic of conversation.

Lima Senior graduate Rion Thompson is averaging nearly 14 points a game at Bowling Green State University.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/01/web1_01.21.20.rion_.jpgLima Senior graduate Rion Thompson is averaging nearly 14 points a game at Bowling Green State University. Submitted photo
Bob Seggerson
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/01/web1_seggerson-sig-3.jpgBob SeggersonSubmitted photo

Reach Bob Seggerson at bseggerson@lcchs.edu.

Reach Bob Seggerson at bseggerson@lcchs.edu.

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