Four games into a season is not an optimum time to change coaches, but Leo is delighted to announce that Jamal Thompson ’00 will be the Lions’ coach for the remainder of the 2018-19 basketball season, beginning with the Catholic League opener at Loyola Academy on Friday, Nov. 30.
Thompson, 36, succeeds Shawn Frison ’87, who departed the basketball staff on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
“This is a dream come true for me,” Thompson said. “Leo is my school. I’ve wanted to come back and help out since I graduated from college.’
Thompson was the starting point guard for the Lions as a junior in 1999 when they finished fourth in the Class-A state tournament. As a senior he earned All-State and All-Catholic League recognition, as well as a scholarship to Quincy University, where he was a three-year starter on the basketball team and an assistant coach for two years after graduation. In 2016 he was inducted into the Quincy Hall of Fame.
Thompson has been active in youth basketball since returning to the Chicago area. He also coached at Bremen High School, and at Seton Academy until it closed in 2016.
“When I got the call about coming aboard, I didn’t have to think twice—like I say, Leo is my school,” Thompson said. “It will be a blessing to work with our young men, not just on the court but in the classroom and in other phases of their lives.”
Fred Cleveland continues on the staff as an assistant coach.
“I know Fred, and I look forward to sharing ideas with him,” Thompson said. “I saw Leo play eight to 10 times last season, and it’s an established, exciting team with a lot of promise. Fred knows it better than I do, so I’m going to be leaning on him. I don’t expect we’ll change a lot, maybe add a few things and make sure the kids are enjoying the experience.”
Leo brings a 3-1 record into Catholic play, bouncing back to win three straight games in the Washington, Il., Tournament of Champions after dropping the opener to defending Louisiana state champion Rayville. Fred Cleveland Jr. made the all-tournament team for the third year in a row, averaging 27.5 points, five assists and four steals in the four games. DaChaun Anderson joined him an on the all-tournament team, averaging 19 points per game and setting a tournament record with 66 rebounds (16.2 average) in the four games.
Loyola is also 3-1, rebounding from a 56-54 loss to neighborhood rival New Trier to thump St. Ignatius 62-38.
“I’m eager to get started,” Thompson said. “I think we have a chance to have a special season.”