By Garth Shanklin
The Felicity-Franklin Cardinals’ basketball team has a new face at the helm.
Jason Thompson has been tabbed to take over the squad, which won five games last season. Thompson spend the 2016-2017 school year as the athletic director at Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington High School, his alma mater.
Thompson said the similarities between the two communities will help him with his transition.
“It’s a blue collar community, which is what I know,” Thompson said. “It’s also a smaller district with tough kids that are hard working. All jobs aren’t good jobs, but I felt like this one would give me an opportunity to build a program and start moving things in a positive direction.”
Thompson added he decided to accept the Felicity head coaching job in order to help him reach a goal he’s been striving for for nearly a decade.
“My leaving Ripley wasn’t me wanting to leave Ripley, it was me leaving to pursue a goal I’ve wanted to for a long time,” Thompson said. “I started coaching basketball nine years ago to be a coach. When the opportunity presented itself, I seized the moment and took full advantage of it. Right now I’m just trying to understand what I need to do to build the program and put the pieces together on who my staff will be. Talk to good coaches, they’re only as good as the staff next to them.”
The Cardinals introduced their new head coach to the community earlier this month, and Thompson said the event went well.
“It was a pleasurable experience, everyone was nice,” Thompson said. “The thing about Felicity is that everyone’s excited about change in terms of the basketball program based on where they came from and where they’re wanting to go. I’ve got some pedigree in terms of been fortunate to play and coach with some really good coaches, I’ve worked some camps in the summer time I’ve put in a lot of work for the opportunity.”
Thompson has also had the Cardinals at work this summer. With the coaching change, the team can use as many days in the gym as they can get to adapt to their new schemes.
“We get 10 days over the summer and we’ve spent six days so far,” Thompson said. “We practiced for three and we played for three. I think that our kids are playing really hard. They’re buying into the system, which is a big key. From a basketball IQ standpoint, every coach’s terminology is different. Mine may be different than what they’re used to.”
Thompson added the Cardinals have roughly 10 players competing for time at the varsity level, and the summer sessions help sort out roles for the upcoming season.
“Summer is a good time to get kids out there and see what you’ve got,” Thompson said. “We still have a couple kids that aren’t here yet. Have a couple sophomores that fit into the varsity rotation but I’m told there are kids who could be upperclassmen who play big roles. We’re looking at 8-10 kids that could be in our rotation next year, which in basketball is a good problem to have. Kids are competing in every practice for playing time.”
Several key players return from the Cardinals’ 2016-2017 squad, though leading scorer Dominic Ruwe (25 points per game) is not one of them. Thompson said he believes Marcus Simpson and Jared Boeckmann are players who could step up for Felicity this year.
“Simpson is a senior, he’s got an opportunity to be an all-league player,” Thompson said. “Boeckmann can be an all-league player moving forward. I think Clayton Griffith can be pretty good if I can get him to running the floor well, rebounding, getting stickbacks and guarding. Our sophomore class, we’ve got another junior. Matt Hall will play an integral part in what we’ll be next year offensively. Joey Glassmeyer will be one of our big kids next year. He’s a good post presence, rebounds and runs the floor well. We have to get better at taking charges and not blocking shots, if the season started today we’d be in foul trouble.”
The (very) early results are promising, as the Cardinals have already faced and defeated some tougher opponents.
“We played Greenville out of Dayton last week at Rio Grande in a shootout, they were a Division I school for several years and we beat them,” Thompson said. “The future is bright. I’m not guaranteeing a league championship in the first year but we want to stay the course, enjoy the process and learn how to play the game the right way together.”
Part of the process involves working with other coaches in Felicity to build a system, which Thompson has help doing from his athletic director.
“We’re excited, we’re going to play and compete every night and win, lose or draw we’re going to use each game and opportunity on the floor as a learning experience to get better,” Thompson said. “We’re going to try to have a camp for a few days at the end of next month. Ryan Taulbee is our middle school coach and athletic director, he’s very instrumental in program building. He and I talk every day about what our vision is and how we want to build the program. We’re getting some of the pieces to the puzzle put together.”