Tyrell Thompson was a bit homesick being away from Texas for a couple of years. Thus his transfer to Howard Payne University in Brownwood after playing basketball at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas.

Thompson has got off to a fantastic start for the Yellow Jackets and is currently leading the team with an average of 14.0 points through four games into the young season. The 6-foot-5 forward is also pulling down 6.8 rebounds a game to go with averages of three blocks and two steals.

“I am just being aggressive, and my teammates are hitting me open, getting the ball where I need it,” Thompson said.

A former Columbia Roughneck, Thompson came into the program with the idea that he could accomplish quite a bit for the Jackets.

“I cracked the lineup early on in our training camp,” he said. “I just showed up being a leader on the court. It came natural to me being a leader, because I had done that at Columbia. For me it was a natural fit to be a leader on and off the court.”

Thompson’s connection to Howard Payne goes back to Columbia. His coach there, Henry Valladares, played for Howard Payne.

“Coach Valladares told me about the environment and the program even when I was back at Columbia,” Thompson said. “When I came for my visit, the coaches wanted me here and I felt welcomed. I also felt with that kind of feeling that I could do something here.

“They saw my film and like that I was aggressive on the court and could rebound well. They had an idea about me because coach Valladares kept telling them about me.”

After graduating in 2017, it took a while for Thompson to decide where he wanted to play at the next level.

“I was weighing my options a lot, and at the time it felt like a good home-away environment with the coaching staff welcoming me in,” he said of his decision to attend Tabor. “So I decided to go in there and see what I could do.”

Thompson averaged 10.5 points a game in his freshman season with the Bluejays.

“I did pretty good my freshman season; I kind of picked it up where I left off from high school,” Thompson said. “But the second year after my ankle injury, it just didn’t feel the same anymore, so I decided to transfer.”

In a boot for about a month his sophomore year after the ankle injury he sustained while diving a loose ball, the sophomore began to feel cabin fever.

“I wasn’t use to the snow and it was hard getting used to it,” he said. “Most of the time I just stayed inside.”

With a lot of time on his hands while recovering, he thought he needed a change.

“After I got hurt at Tabor, for me it just didn’t feel the same being there; I missed my parents, and they couldn’t go see me because it was far,” Thompson said. “So I was down on myself because they couldn’t see me play.”

Now that his parents have been able to travel to Brownwood to see their son in action, Thompson is a lot happier.

“Now it makes the game a lot better for me, and I am more calm knowing that my parents are in the stands,” he said. “It certainly makes me happier on and off the court knowing that my family is closer to me now.”

The Jackets are off to a 1-3 start and have lost their past two games. They are hoping to break that streak with a home game Friday against Centenary College from Louisiana.

“Since I’ve been in college I’ve become a better shooter and my work ethic has improved,” Thompson said. “I feel like I am making better decisions now.”

Thompson is looking forward to Dec. 16, when the Jackets visit St. Thomas in Houston.

“Yeah, that’s when all of my family will be coming to see me,” Thompson said.

Joel Luna is sports editor for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0160.

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