In addition to being a Division I college basketball recruit, Trinity Thompson is pretty good at keeping a secret.
The Michigan City senior verbally committed to Northern Kentucky on July 21, but no one else, save for her parents and her future coaches, knew until she made the announcement Saturday during a gathering outside the New Fellowship Missionary Church in Gary.
"I didn't even tell (Mike) Megyese," Thompson said of her coach with the Wolves.
Like everyone else, Megyese had to show up to find out, and even then, there were almost no hints.
"All the schools (Northern Kentucky, Murray State and Western Michigan) in my top three have yellow in (their colors), so I was able to play off that," said Thompson, who sat at a table amid a cluster of yellow and white balloons. "My dad's shoes were black and yellow (Northern Kentucky's colors), but nobody wanted to look at his shoes."
Her choice of the Norse showed that the early bird doesn't always get the worm when it comes to recruiting. The Horizon League school wasn't in on Thompson before July, when they saw her in a tournament with the Nike Lady Gym Rats, her AAU team, in Indianapolis. The courtship that followed was a quick one, as they offered her July 12. Southern Illinois, Murray State, Indiana State and IUPUI all joined her list of suitors during the spring, but it was Northern Kentucky, with coach Camryn Whitaker's full-court press from the day she contacted Thompson after getting eyes on her for the first time, that made the ultimate difference.
"We were out to eat, coach Whitaker called and said, I'm going to tell you now, we're going to talk to you almost every day to the end of the recruiting process," Thompson said. "She'd text me every day, just to check on me, what plans were for the day. When they added a new (assistant) coach (former Kentucky standout Anthony Epps), they introduced me to him, too. I met the entire staff on Zoom. I was talking with players, how do you like it there? what's your perspective? It was just a family feeling. The only thing holding me back was not seeing the campus, the surroundings."
Since her final two options were in Kentucky (Northern and Murray State), Thompson and her parents made a same-day trip to walk the grounds of both schools just to get a feel, even with no one else around due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I loved the campus, the coaching staff, the team, everything just fell into place," she said. "More so than anything, it's the drive the coaches have, individually and as a team. They push you to be a better person, on and off the court. They're worried about who you're going to be when you leave there."
Michigan City senior Trinity Thompson announced her verbal commitment Saturday to Northern Kentucky. (Photo Provided)
A 6-foot forward, Thompson picked up her first scholarship offer two years ago, but said the idea of playing high-level college basketball didn't seem real until last summer. While the process was stressful, she also enjoyed the experience that few prep athletes, by percentage, get to have.
"When I started getting all these offers, I was thinking, OK, maybe I can do this," she said. "It was very stressful, to make sure you do the right thing. I kept wondering about it a lot. Getting down to actually thinking about it, it was a hard decision to make. To get it over with, to get it handled, it was a weight off my shoulders, like, ah, I'm happy. It was fun for me. I like a challenge in everything I do. I always planned to make a decision before my senior high school season, so this was in my timeline."
Because the recruiting process involves so many people, Thompson really wanted to make sure her announcement included everyone who helped along the way. That's why she held it outside the church that was started by her great grandfather and her dad is the pastor.
"I just wanted to say thank you to everybody," she said. "It was very important to me to be around the people who showed me unconditional support through it all, who helped keep me going. I told my parents what I wanted to do and I couldn't have done it all without everybody -- sisters, aunts, friends -- helping get everything together."
Megyese was surprised by the choice, but no less happy for his Junior All-Star and Miss Basketball candidate.
"I'm proud of her," he said. "You could see the glow on her face. She's happy. She's glad it's over. She feels good about where she's going to college. It's nice to finish out your high school career and already be set for college. She doesn't have to worry all year long about what she's doing next year. She already knows."
As a junior, Thompson averaged 20.2 points, 15.8 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game.
"She'd still walk away upset with a game because she's a perfectionist," Megyese said. "She wants to be the best she can be. She worries more about the mistakes than the positives. She's always looking to get better. She hasn't reached her top level yet, which is kind of scary. I think, in the Horizon League, she can play any of those positions (three, four or five)."
Northern Kentucky was 20-12 last year and figures to have a relatively young roster by the time Thompson arrives, with three juniors and four seniors listed on the 2020-21 roster. She will major in Elementary Education with long-term plans to teach and coach.
"I have a knack with kids. I like working with them," Thompson said. "I'm never going to say I'm going to come in and play as a freshman right away. For me, it will be about coming in and wanting it more, practicing and playing my butt off to get to the point where they can see me helping contribute to the team, to put me in a tough position. It's up to me to practice hard, to do everything I need to do to show I can play at the next level."
Thompson goes into her senior year with individual aspirations of making the all-star team and being in the running for Miss Basketball. She also hopes she can continue to set the tone for the rest of the M.C. program.
"I never go into a game trying to impress somebody," she said. "I just try to see how I can attack an opponent and do what's needed in the game. I'm going to focus on getting the next class ready, build their game up. We have nine incoming freshmen and juniors returning who have the potential to be very good. I tell them all the time, the four other seniors and I, we have to pass the torch to somebody, so I want to help you understand you can be in our spot the next four years. I'm a captain, a leader, somebody who gathers the team all the time, but I'm just a normal person. They can play that role, they just have to put in the time and work hard."
Watch a video of her announcement on her Twitter page, @triinniityt_.