We recently talked with Wolfpack basketball legend David Thompson, a member of the first class in the NC State Athletic Hall of Fame, for a story in the special winter issue of NC State magazine. But there wasn’t room in the magazine for our complete interview, so here are more of Thompson’s answers to our questions about basketball and his time at NC State:
When he knew basketball was his sport: When I made my first hoop when I was five years old, shooting in the backyard. Everybody played basketball and everybody loved basketball in my family. My sisters all played. My brother, he’s the one who taught me how to play, really. He was the one that I really looked up to as a basketball player. He would take me around to different parks and we would play against different players. He would always tell me, ‘For your age, you’re the best player in the world.’ And I believed that. So that was good for my confidence.
His impression when he first arrived at NC State as a student: It was a long drive way up here, and we finally got on campus and started playing these pick-up games. I felt right at home once I started playing basketball.
How he felt about practice: I loved to play anytime. I’d play every day, any time, all day. Down in Shelby, we played all the time. During the summer we’d go to Gardner-Webb College and play all day. They had a place called the Snack Shop and I’d go in there and get a doughnut with some ice cream on top, eat that, go back and play again.
On pick-up games when he was at NC State: We’d go play at Carmichael and play against Walter Davis and all those guys, and Bob McAdoo even after he got out of college. Allan Bristow would come down from Virginia Tech. I’d recruit all the guys to come work as counselors at the Gardner-Webb basketball camp, so we had some great counselor games down there. We had Quinn Buckner, John Lucas, Walter Davis…
Toughest loss while playing for NC State: The Maryland game at home. I wanted to go my whole career without losing a game at home, and Brad Davis hit that shot at the buzzer to beat us by one point. That was devastating. After that game, I said, ‘We’ll never lose to them again,’ and we played them in the ACC tournament and beat them.
On changes in the rules: I missed out on some great rules. I missed out on the three-point shot, you couldn’t dunk when I was there and freshmen weren’t eligible to play. So even though I’ve got the highest score, on average, I’m not the all-time leading scorer at NC State.
A lasting lesson he learned from head coach Norm Sloan: His motto was ‘Constancy to purpose of individuals results in a team of champions,’ and by that he meant that if everybody understood their role and did their job individually and collectively, we would win. I took that I share that with kids when I talk to them. In basketball, sometimes your role is not going to the role you want, but if you accept it and work hard the main thing is that you win. And if you win, then everybody will get the glory.
On being competitive: I want to win and everything. My daughter is the same way I am, so we go at it. My wife has to say, ‘Y’all calm down now.’
On whether the glory days are back for NC State basketball: I certainly hope so. We’re headed in the right direction. Getting into the Sweet Sixteen was incredible and I think the recruiting class we have this year should be very helpful, but we have to keep it going. We’ve got to keep bringing in classes like that so that there won’t be any dry spells.