KNIGHTSTOWN - P.J. Thompson can score. He can hit the open three-pointer. This is something, as the guard braces for his Purdue basketball adventure, to consider.
Now, it might not be relevant for the Boilers next season given their need for good run-the-offense point guard play, but on Friday night, at the Hoosiers' Reunion All-Star Game, that wasn't the point.
“This was one of the best all-star games I've played in,” Thompson said. “I loved it.”
Love met nostalgia at nearly 100-year-old Hoosier Gym, where reality meshed with movie magic.
Specifically, the movie “Hoosiers” magic.
Photos of actors Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper hang from walls. A TV monitor played Hoosiers movie scenes. A large red-and-gold sign -- “Go Hickory, All the way!” -- reflected a movie moment that lingers more than a generation after its release.
Once the scene of one of the greatest sports movies ever made, the gym is now a community center that features youth leagues, adult games and even weddings.
On a postcard-perfect night, more than 600 people packed a gym that had an intriguing history by the time John Wooden had earned Purdue All-America honors in the 1930s.
Yes, Thompson noticed.
“This is a historic place,” he said. “For us to have the chance to play here, it means a lot. We are thankful to be invited. We're glad to put on a good show.”
That show included Thompson scoring 23 points -- making six three-pointers along the way -- as his Terhune team beat Hickory 118-117.
Both team names came from the movie.
Yes, that victory mattered, Thompson said, but it was just another small step in his big-picture plan. The next six days are filled with preparation for next weekend's Indiana-Kentucky All-Star series.
After that, it's all about Purdue.
“I'll get done with the all-stars on Saturday, and in the morning I leave for Purdue,” Thompson said. “It's a quick turnaround, but it's finally here. My goal is to play college basketball. I get the chance to start on (June 15).”
That start will include a touch of nostalgia for what is over, including a high-scoring role at Indianapolis Brebeuf High School, but mostly it will be rich in anticipation of what is to come.
“I'll miss high school and the people in Indy, but I'm ready to move onto a new chapter in my life,” he said. “I've been preparing for this moment for a long time. I'm ready to work with my guys at Purdue so I can get ready for the season.”
Thompson was a high-scoring point guard for Brebeuf, averaging 23.6 points as a senior. That won't be his Purdue role given the Boilers need a good decision maker who minimizes mistakes and maximizes opportunities for others, all while playing full-court defense.
On Friday night, for perhaps the last time in a while, Thompson got to fully flex his shooting muscles. He showcased a quick release, impressive range and solid accuracy.
“I'll do whatever the team needs,” he said. “Tonight I was able to shoot well, so that's what I did. I tried to get my teammates involved. I had some assists. I want to do what the team needs, and I was able to put the ball in the basket.”
Thompson had plenty of offensive company. For instance, Trevon Bluiett, who is heading to Xavier, also had 23 points.
And if former Bishop Luers standout James Blackmon, Indiana Mr. Basketball Trey Lyles and New Haven's Steve McElvene didn't make it (although they were on the roster), it didn't diminish the non-stop action.
“All-star games are always fun,” Thompson said, “but our No. 1 goal was to come out with a win.”
Victory came with indifferent defense, which is usually the case in these events.
“We wanted to play defense and play as hard as we could,” Thompson said, “because in the end all, it's a game. Every time we step on a court, we want to win.
“In all-star games, it's tough to play defense, even though we talked about it from the beginning. We did the best we could. For an all-star game we moved the ball and played well together. We were able to score a lot of points, so it was all good.”
Good isn't over. Thompson and the rest of his Indiana All-Star teammates will mix two-a-day practices with exhibition games in preparation for their two-game showdown with Kentucky.
“If we're not playing, we're practice,” Thompson said.
As for facing Kentucky, he added, the goal is clear.
“Winning is very important. Nobody wants to lose to those guys. It will be more of a defensive game than this one.”
In the earlier girls' game, Homestead's Sydney Buck, who is heading to Butler after her Indiana-Kentucky All-Star experience, scored eight points.