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Inspiring confidence

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

It’s pretty safe to say that there are few, if any, other basketball players in Class 1A quite like Deven Thompson of the New Mexico School for the Deaf.

At 6 foot, 9 inches tall, Thompson stands head and shoulders above his opponents.

“Deven is definitely the tallest player I have ever had or seen since I started coaching 1A,” said his coach Letty Perez, who has known the big fella since he showed up on campus as a 5-year-old. “He is one of a kind for our state and size school. It’s fascinating to see how a player of Deven’s size draws fans and spectators, even those not linked to our school.”

Deven Thompson blocks a shot by Jemez’s Keithan Shendo during a game. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Thompson, a junior, is averaging 24.4 points a game, which is second in the class and third overall in the state, while snaring 13.6 rebounds, which is tops by far across all classes. And he’s helped the Roadrunners to a 13-4 record.

Despite Thompson’s presence, however, NMSD is flying under the radar to a certain extent as it is not even close to being ranked among the top 10, even though the Roadrunners’ record is fourth-best in the class.

That may be because Thompson missed a significant amount of time with an injured foot. The injury and subsequent surgeries cost him a season and a half.

“NMSD had a losing season after I had to leave, but now I am enjoying the current winning season,” he said.

Indeed, the Roadrunners are certainly enjoying having him back on the court, Perez said.

“The team rallies around Deven,” she said. “When he is on the floor, the team performs better. When he is off the floor, I can see the impact on the other players’ performance. Deven inspires confidence in the other players and that helps them play at a higher level. We actually have a good, balanced team, but the difference is so evident with/without him.”

Not only is he a force with the ball, he is one without it, averaging more than two blocks a game, twice as many as anybody else in 1A.

“Deven does best in the post area and in the paint,” Perez said. “His size and body build make him really strong and other players compare it to slamming into a brick wall. Deven does well with defensive blocking, also. He can be very intimidating to opposing players.”

For Thompson, it doesn’t matter what he’s doing as long as he’s helping the team win.

“I love playing with passion, which will lead me to good performances in the game, including scoring, rebounding and blocking shots, etc.,” he said. “As of right now, we are focused on regular season games and district playoffs. I have high expectations for our team and we will be prepared for the state tournament if we qualify for the state tournament.”

Thompson is coming off a huge game Tuesday against District 1-1A rival Walatowa, scoring 40 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks in a 52-50 win. The Roadrunners are now taking a break from district play to play in the Great Plains Schools for the Deaf tournament in Olathe, Kan.

“We have been part of that tournament since 2007,” Perez said. “This year is the first time we have been seeded first and, needless to say, we have never won a championship in that tournament. Culturally, this tournament means a lot to us because it is versus other schools for the deaf, which we have a lot of common ground with.”

The hearing issues have not held Thompson back, even when he plays club ball.

“I have experienced a variety of barriers, such as no communication between AAU coaches and myself,” he said. “I had to figure out a lot on my own.”

Perez said she can see that he’s grown as a player, as well.

“Deven is a late bloomer and this year has shown that he is much more mature than in the past,” she said. “Deven has seen that coming together as a team and listening to his teammates is critical to success. He is watching how senior Jonathan Garcia leads the team, both on and off court, and I hope that Deven will step up next year as a leader in Jonathan’s absence.”

While dominant in hoops, Thompson has also played football, and been on the NMSD track and field team, winning a state championship in the shot put. But first comes basketball.

“I love basketball, not because of my size and height, but because basketball is more fun and competitive than any other sport,” he said.

Thompson has aspirations about playing in college and Perez said she’s been contacted by Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the world’s only university for the deaf, and Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf based in Big Springs, Texas.

For now, however, his goal is stay healthy and help the Roadrunners go as far as possible.

“I believe that my presence on the court will be key for NMSD this season,” Thompson said. “I expect to face any situation and my goal is to be prepared for the game.”