Kelton Thompson uses his experiences to become a unique coach

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Kelton Thompson, Picayune Memorial High School's new head coach of the men's basketball team, overcame a childhood fraught with obstacles.

Kelton Thompson, Picayune Memorial High School’s new head coach of the men’s basketball team, overcame a childhood fraught with obstacles.

Life is a learning experience. It is full of opportunity some take for granted, but others, like Kelton Thompson, take advantage of.

In late April, Thompson became the new head coach of the men’s basketball team at Picayune Memorial High School. His journey through childhood was not picture perfect, but served as inspiration for lessons he instills in his players every day.

During Thompson’s childhood, his parents were in and out of jail, which for any kid is difficult. However, when he was 10-years-old, his aunt and uncle raised him in Louisiana as he attended St. Stanislaus High School, where he found his passion for basketball.

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“As a boarding student at Stanislaus, you lived on campus so it was pretty easy to get involved in extracurricular activities, which is where it all started,” said Thompson.

After graduating from St. Stanislaus High School, Thompson played basketball at William Carey University from 1996-2000. At William Carey, he contributed to a Conference Championship and earned a National Tournament bid in 1997.

While being recruited by colleges, he said he was being considered as a point guard, but ended up playing as a shooting guard to better fit his strengths as a player.

Thompson graduated from William Carey in 2000 with a bachelor’s in business and finance. Then, shortly after that, he went on to earn his masters in business administration in 2003.

“Going through school I didn’t have any intent of coaching. I really wanted to pursue business but eventually I was presented an opportunity to coach for St. Stanislaus as a volunteer assistant and did that for three years while working on my masters degree,” said Thompson.

After the three years of volunteering, he got his teaching license and became an assistant coach at St. Stanislaus, where he remained for two years prior to going to his first head coaching job at Bay High School. While coaching there, he led the team to its first ever 2010 AAAA State Championship and was named Mississippi AAAA Coach of the Year and Sun Herald “South Mississippi” Coach of the Year in 2010.

Thompson never had an easy road to travel in life, but said it all had a bigger purpose for his future and he uses his experiences to positively influence as many people as he can.

“With my childhood, I got to experience the bad and the good. My parents were both incarcerated, but when my aunt took me in, I got to experience the love and compassion every kid should feel. I know where a lot of kids are coming from but what I really think is important for any coach is to get to know their players. Build great relationships with them and understand what they are going through because sports can be a great venue to express yourself and to get away from all the troubles life might bestow. So, as a coach, I strive to build relationships and make all my players better people,e along with being better basketball players,” said Thompson.

Although he never even thought of becoming a coach, once he was given the opportunity to help, he took it and never turned away.

“My experience not only told me I wanted to coach, but that I needed to coach. I needed to be around these kids and I have a lot to offer from my perspective of life. Being around these kids and helping them gives me a sense of purpose and that really keeps me going every day,” said Thompson.

Being a head coach, Thompson is always asked by the media and players how he thinks the season went. His answer was always the same.

“I always told them I don’t know. Once these young men grow up and make families of their own and have steady jobs and are making a name for themselves, then come and ask me because that is what coaching is to me. Not getting these kids court experience, but molding them into professionals on and off the court,” said Thompson.