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Billy Thompson

Sport: Basketball

Born: December 1, 1963

Town: Camden, New Jersey

William Stansbury Thompson was born December 1, 1963 in Camden. He sharpened his game on the city playgrounds, befriending Milt Wagner and Kevin Walls along the way. All three went on to star for Clarence Turner at Camden High School. Billy developed into a 6’7” forward who played the game with an effortless grace that made recruiters drool. He had the size, speed and skill to play any position on the court.

Billy was named to the prep All-American team as a junior and senior. As a senior in 1981–82, he was ranked as the #1 prep prospect in the country. Wagner had accepted a scholarship from Denny Crum at Louisville the year before, and Billy followed him. After Billy graduated from Camden High, Walls became the star of the Golden Panthers, and averaged over 40 points a game. He, too, headed for Louisville.

Billy came off the bench for Louisville as a freshman. The Cardinals won the Metro Conference title and entered the NCAA Tournament with a #1 seed. They made it all the way to the Final Four before falling to Houston in the national semifinal. Billy became a starter as a sophomore in 1983–84, averaging 9.2 points a game and finishing second on the team with 3.6 assists a game. The Cardinals repeated as Metro champs and won two games in the NCAA Tournament before falling to top seed Kentucky.

Billy had his best individual season as a junior in 1984–85. He led the Cardinals in scoring, rebounding and assists, and filled in for Wagner at guard when he was injured. The team went 19–18 but did not receive a tournament bid. Billy took the heat for the down year, with many Louisville fans mistaking his smooth style for a lack of hustle and desire.

The 1985–86 team was one of the finest in school history. Crum coached his squad to a 32–7 record and a national championship. Billy shot 57.6 percent from the floor and was one of five players to average over 10 points a game. He and freshman sensation Purvis Ellison combined for over 15 rebounds a game, while Billy amassed 127 assists—just 4 short of Wagner’s team-leading total. In the title game against Duke, Billy made 6 of 8 shots for 13 points.

A couple of months later, Billy was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 19th pick in the NBA Draft. He was immediately dealt to the Lakers, where he served as a backup for James Worthy. His best game that season came against the Clippers. Billy scored 11 points and had 13 rebounds and 5 assists in a 137–115 victory. He saw little action, however, during the team’s run to the NBA championship. A knee injury limited Billy to just 9 games in 1987–88, and he was inactive for the team’s second consecutive championship.

In 1988–89, the Miami Heat selected Billy with their second pick in the expansion draft. He alternated between starter and sixth man for the Heat over the next three seasons, chipping in 10 points and 5 rebounds on a fairly regular basis. The Heat released Billy after the 1990–91 season. He was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks but failed to make the team. The Golden State Warriors picked him up toward the end of the year, but cut him after one game.

After two seasons in the Continental Basketball Association, Billy decided to look for work abroad. He played in the Philippines, Turkey, Israel and Argentina before calling it a career in 1998 at age 34. Although Billy fell short of predictions of superstardom, he won five championships during his career—one in college, two in the NBA, and two during his time in Israel.


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