Kareem Thompson

Kareem Thompson, shown here during his senior year with Florence, excelled this past season for East Central (Miss.) Community College and has signed with Oral Roberts University. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

When Kareem Thompson was a senior at Florence High School, he contributed plenty to the team through outside shooting, ball handling and other skills.

But Thompson was part of a strong core also featuring Dee Beckwith, Cadarrius Thompson, Charlie Champagne and Marc Johnson. The Falcons earned a program-record 29 wins in 2018-19.

Kareem Thompson did not have to take over games.

“I’ve always been told I’m not aggressive enough. I’ve been hearing that my whole life,” Kareem Thompson said recently, adding he’s a team player and “I’ve never really felt the need to go do everything by myself.”

But East Central (Miss.) Community College needed to replace its top scorer entering this past season and its second-leading scorer left the team.

That gave Thompson a chance as a freshman to prove he could be more assertive and propelled him to earn an offer from Oral Roberts, a Division I school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that competes in the Summit League.

Thompson averaged 17.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 23 games this season for ECCC. He shot 43% overall and 34% from 3-point range.

He said his plan all along was to play junior college basketball for one year. He has three years of eligibility left at Oral Roberts.

“They gave me a lot of freedom and I just got comfortable with it over time,” Thompson said of his time at East Central.

Thompson sees a similar mentality in the coaching staff at Oral Roberts, which he got a chance to visit before the coronavirus pandemic became obvious.

“I really believe in their system and I really believe they can help me develop as a player and get me to the next level,” Thompson said. “Their guards, they have a lot of freedom to play and make plays.”

ORU went 17-14 last year, falling to North Dakota State in the semifinals of the Summit League tournament. It was the Golden Eagles’ best season since 2014-15. They last made the NCAA tournament in 2008.

Thompson has been working out at home to strengthen his lower body and other areas and improve his range of motion. He wants to improve his defense, get quicker and get better driving to the basket.

He’s had some communication with one of his new teammates, Elijah Lufile. Thompson expects to report to the Oral Roberts campus in July.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m ready to get there.”

Contact Craig at Craig.Thomas@TimesDaily.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TD_CraigThomas

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