By Jake Shindel, men’s basketball reporter
A couple of years before Charles Thompson established himself as an anchor in the paint for Towson men’s basketball, he was a two-sport athlete at St. Stephens and St. Agnes School in Virginia, trying to decide whether he should play basketball or football in college.
The 6-foot-7, 250-pound forward had an offer to play football at Howard coming out of high school and was in talks with North Carolina’s tight ends coach, but in the end, it was Towson coach Pat Skerry who got through to him and convinced him to play basketball.
After watching one of his basketball games in high school, Skerry knew he wanted to get Thompson to Towson. He recalled a 9 p.m. game at a camp when Thompson took an elbow to the face, had blood running down his eye, and still ran up and down the court a couple of more times, even blocking a shot.
Skerry played a significant role in getting the big man to Towson, Thompson said. Thompson remembers consistent text messages from Skerry asking what he was thinking about playing football or basketball at the collegiate level.
“When I lock in on a guy recruiting-wise, you’ll get a consistent message,” Skerry said. “My excitement with Charles was just how hard he played… I think Charlie has a bright future ahead of him in basketball, [he’ll] have some good opportunities. I also think if he chose to do it, he possibly could play in the NFL.”
Had he chosen the football route, Thompson said he would likely be a tight end at UNC. Thompson played tight end, wide receiver and defensive end in high school.
“UNC football, they were really big on me,” Thompson said. “[Then-tight ends coach Chad Scott] was kind of upset that I was going to play basketball, I could tell. He was like, ‘I’m only recruiting two tight ends, I want you to be one of them.’”
Once Skerry got through to him, Thompson decided not just to play basketball but to play basketball at Towson.
“It was basketball at Towson. Definitely basketball at Towson,” Thompson said. “I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Despite getting offers for basketball and football, Thompson never took an official visit. He visited Towson unofficially and received an offer during his visit.
Soon after his visit, he woke up one morning and knew Towson was where he wanted to be.
“I had a gut feeling it would be the right choice,” Thompson said.
The decision has paid off for the three-time member of the Coastal Athletic Association All-Defensive Team and a two-time member of the All-CAA Second Team. The team has also benefitted from Thompson’s services, making two consecutive trips to the CAA Semifinals and being named regular season champions during the 2021-22 season.
‘We’re glad he chose [basketball],” Skerry said. “He’s got a chance to be as good of a player as we’ve had since [Jerelle] Benimon, who played in the NBA. He’s certainly the best leader we’ve ever had.”
Thompson, named to the All-CAA Preseason First Team this year, averaged 11.8 points on 53.1% shooting and 8.3 rebounds per game in conference play last year.
This season, Thompson is averaging 9.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game for a 2-4 Towson team that lost three games in four days at the Charleston Classic. The team has faced some tough competition, opening the season at Colorado and playing against No. 6 Houston and Wake Forest in Charleston.
In his last season of collegiate basketball, Thompson wants to do something Towson has never been able to accomplish in the conference: win a CAA title.
“I just want to be the best player I can be possible, and hopefully it brings my team to a championship,” Thompson said.