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Silent Partner

Feb. 14, 2010

by Jon Cooper
Associate Editor

ATLANTA – Erica Thompson has played a major role in Georgia Tech’s 20-5 record and No. 21 national ranking, yet she’s never taken a shot, gotten an assist or grabbed a rebound or even touched the ball in a game.

She hasn’t even touched the floor in a game.

“In a game” is the key words.

Thompson is a walk-on, who transferred to Georgia Tech from Alabama A&M, where she’d played the previous two seasons. As a transfer, she is required to sit out a season by the NCAA.

While she must sit and watch from the bench during home games and on TV in Tech’s road games — she’s prohibited from traveling with the team — she’s been anything but a spectator during practice.

“It’s very weird but I’m learning every day,” said the 5-foot-5 point guard who was born in Houston, Texas, but moved to Stockbridge, Ga., when she was young and starred at Dutchtown High School. “I’ve learned to be patient and just help my team as far as cheering for them and in practice working hard to help make them better. That was my main goal.”

Her main goal on the floor, that is. Her main goal in coming to Tech had nothing to do with basketball.

“It was academics first, especially for my major, I wanted to go to the best school,” said Thompson, who has changed her major to business management from civil engineering since arriving at Tech. “My mother convinced me I could go to whatever school I can. It ended up being Georgia Tech.”

Thompson found another mother figure in Tech coach MaChelle Joseph.

“That was a life-changing experience,” recalled Thompson of meeting Joseph. “I always viewed her as one of the best coaches in the ACC and when I came here I just felt like I could at least help the team so I decided I wanted to walk on. I met her and the coaching staff and it was like family.”

Thompson has proved to be something of a problem child, however, especially in practice to freshman Sharena Taylor and sophomore Metra Walthour, the team’s point guards.

“She has a fight to her that we love,” said associate head coach Teri Moren. “She doesn’t back down from anybody and she’s just continued to push our guards each and every day. When she’s not in class, she’s usually the first on on the floor getting some shots and working on her game. She’s just a kid who loves being around the game, loves the game, and has really just embraced her role. We’ve benefited from having to play against her each day.”

“I love Erica,” said Walthour. “I love her work ethic and how she comes every day and plays hard. She works to make us get better. She’s very good defensively and she’s about as quick a point guard as I’ve seen. So she challenges us with our defense also.”

Thompson, who started playing basketball at age 4, feels that she has grown all-around this season.

“I’m basically learning how to be a better player, overall and a better point guard,” she said. “I’m learning how to strengthen my character through the good and the bad times.

“On the academic level I’m actually studying wiser. Not more, but wiser,” she continued. “At my old school I would study, study, study. But here you can’t just study all day. You have to at least know what the main parts of what to study for and have group sessions with classmates to get a better understanding of information.”

She’s gotten used to being part of the study group that is the womens hoops team.

Tomorrow night, she’ll continue her studying, making mental notes so as to be ready to attack the Seminoles as part of the 2010-11 team.

“Being on the bench gives you wider view of what to and what not to do in the game,” she said. “It’s a big difference [from Alabama A&M]. I can’t wait for next year to see how big of a difference it is.”

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