|Jeremy & Jerome Thompson|
|Monday, 25 September 2006 15:20|
Joining an OCC team that crushed everything in sight last year, the talented Thompsons should play big roles, and rack up big points, in the junior college ranks.Inside Lacrosse Magazine - Sept 25, 2006. v.10 issue 7
By Scott Conroe
Jeremy and Jerome Thompson proudly stepped across the stage at LaFayette High’s graduation in June, wearing Native American dress – from feathered headpiece to breech cloth and pants to moccasins – instead of cap and gown. Two of the six seniors that had asked the school board for the right to reflect their Onondaga Nation heritage, at the school that is about 20 percent Native, the brothers spanned two cultures – as usual.
With stick skills and all-around play born of working with each other in their yard as children, then honing their game locally on the Onondaga Nation and in the Canadian box leagues, the left handed Jerome and the right handed Jeremy form a dramatice offensive tandem. At 19, Jeremy is a year older and the more veteran player; he was an All-World midfielder for the Iroquois Nationals at the Under-19 Championships in 2003, and he played for the senior Iroquois team this summer at the ILF World Championships in London, Ontario.
The Thompson Boys - Jerome Jr. (left) and Jeremy (right) get ready to play for OCC.
Both were chosen as Under Armour All-Americans this year, and Jerome scored three goals to help lead the North over the South in the Under Armour All-American Classic at Towson University. They were also part of two Class C state champion teams at LaFayette.
Now they are the two most-hyped Native American lacrosse players to come along in a long time. Dynamic do-it-all middies, they’ll start their college careers at NJCAA Champion Onondaga Community College, hoping to transfer to Syracuse University after one season.
“They’re as good as I’ve seen at the high school level,” says OCC coach Chuck Wilbur. “Their lacrosse minds and instincts are unparalleled. They have ‘ooh and ahh’ kind of moves.”
They’re not at ‘Cuse this season because of a language barrier, both learning English late in their life. Their parents, Jerome Sr. and Doloris, first raised their family on the Akwesasne Mohawk nation and sent their boys to a Mohawk school. Jerome Sr., a Mohawk who graduated from LaFayette in 1981, says he wanted the boys to understand his parents’ traditions.
“[The school] was immersion, but we were promised it would not be as much as it was, “ he says. “We tried to read to the boys at night, to keep them speaking English but they were behind when we moved back to Onondaga.”
Doloris is Onondaga, and the family returned to the Onondaga Nation when Jeremy was in fourth grade and Jerome Jr. in fifth. They were tutored 1-on-1 in English but it wasn’t easy. “It was pretty hard,” Jerome Jr. says. “We say a list of simple words . like ‘the’ and ‘and’. All we knew were ’I’ and ‘a’.”
The language gap forced Jeremy to stay back a year, and left both brothers struggling with the SAT’s verbal section. (Their scores didn’t reach the NCAA minimum for acceptance at Syracuse).
OCC should make a nice bridge, since the Thompsons will have several teammates from Onondaga and Six nations in Canada, where they have played in the summer. Native Americans are among the groups least likely to earn college degrees, with attrition rates estimated at 75-93% according to some studies. The Thompson’s cousin Brett Bucktooth, An All-American attackman for the Orange and fellow LaFayette Alum, understands the dilemma.
“With us, everything is new to the parents because they didn’t go,” says Bucktooth. “[The Thompsons] will realize the role academics play in college. Lacrosse isn’t everything, and their parents will motivate them.”
Jerome Sr., a union iron worker, says college wasn’t in his thoughts as a young man, but he sees the need for a degree now. He remembers that they boys were toddlers when they first received their first sticks from Brine’s Joe Taylor at a summer all-star tournament where Jerome Sr., was playing for the Iroquois Nationals. The brothers didn’t play for a team until they were nine, and they used wooden sticks until they reached the junior high level.
Close as they are, and both lanky and 6 –foot-1, the Thompsons differ in many ways. Jerome Jr. played basketball in high school to help his defense, while Jeremy completed in in cross country and wrestling to improve his stamina. Jerome Jr., grinning broadly, says, “Jeremy doesn’t like some of my country music, and he dresses up neater.”
“They’re quiet and reserved,” Bucktooth says. “People will want to get to know them, because they will bring something special to the game. They’ll need to learn how to handle it, which will be good for them.”
LaFayette coach Greg Scott has gone so far as to compare the Thompson’s flair and creativity to the Gaits. Jerome Jr. has heard it before: “When people say that, I say, ‘no, I’m not like the Gaits’. I don’t want to be compared to them, because I’m me.”
Says Bucktooth: “Their style of play is a little different, with a certain finesse and savvy that people are going to be impressed with.”