COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Plenty of schools have already made their ovations and maneuvered their lures. But Bryce Thompson will not be leaving home. The affable, athletic Thompson, arguably the most prolific scorer in the Class of 2020, will stay at Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and play out his senior year among family and friends.
Will that decision foreshadow another one, a bigger one?
Will Thompson opt to remain in-state to play college basketball, and if so, could he ultimately choose a team-up that would give a historic program one of its strongest recruiting classes ever?
Thompson's been a known scoring/shooting commodity within the Class of 2020 for two-plus years. But only in the past three months did he go from notable high-major prospect to bona fide blue-chip status. In May, 247 Sports' Composite Rankings had him ranked 61st in America. By the end of July, Thompson shinnied to 20th.
And those prep-school academies that tried to entice him to leave Tulsa in an effort to improve his chances -- allegedly -- at becoming an All-American? They were destined to be wrong. After winning a Class 6A high school state championship, Thompson went out this summer and demonstrated why no region, school or circumstance should hold him back from that coveted honor of being named to the McDonald's All-America squad come wintertime. Thompson starred for his father Rod's team, Oklahoma Run PWP, on the Under Armour circuit and averaged better than 25.0 points, besting second-place Jalen Suggs (a dual-sport prospect) by more than five points per game.
In the past year, Thompson's blossomed to 6-foot-5 and strengthened his game and body. In the past few months, the likes of North Carolina, Michigan State, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas and others have offered. They were a little late to the party, as Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Texas A&M, Tulsa and more got there first. Some earlier than others.
Thompson was impressive yet again during USA Basketball's Junior National Team Minicamp last week -- before he hyperextended his elbow, an injury his father told CBS Sports will keep him out most of if not all of August. Left arm in a sling, Thompson was upbeat when I spoke with him as the camp ended, but this is a sour turn of events because it will preclude him from participating at the Steph Curry Camp next week; getting that invite was a personal highlight of Thompson's young life.
There's an ongoing marathon to see if the blue bloods, and/or schools with quite interesting connections to Bryce's father, can beat out the Oklahoma schools by the time his recruitment ends, which Rod Thompson told me won't be happening until January 2020 at the very earliest.
Bryce grew into a high-level prospect thanks to many circumstances, some of his own volition. He committed to early morning hoops workouts in his preteen years. Then there's the genealogy: his grandfather on his mother's side was an elite college scorer in the 1970s; his father starred at Tulsa in the late 1990s; his mother was a standout on the Tulsa volleyball team at the same time. Bryce's ethics and talents were also cultivated thanks to having been around fellow Oklahoma-bred basketball role models Trae Young and Shake Milton, who just signed a four-year deal with the 76ers, as he progressed through high school.
"They've been a wealth of help, probably more than they know, throughout this process," Rod Thompson said. "It's been a huge benefit for Bryce because he can touch those guys, he knows what it can look like."
Rayford Young, Trae's father, knows Rod Thompson well. Like Rod, Rayford was a very good college player, thriving at Texas Tech before moving onto his post-basketball life and guiding his son's way to college. Given that the two speak frequently, it's only natural that the recruitment and college success of Trae will have some tangible impact on how Bryce and his family approach where to go and why.
Being a lead guard with a scoring gift, Young came up with a lot of expectations on him, even more than Thompson, who has plenty placed on his shoulders. Still, who would have thought that Oklahoma could produce two of the most dynamic guards in the country three years apart?
Bryce got to see up close how Young's decision to bypass the blue bloods and opt to stay close to home worked out brilliantly and unexpectedly. In just one year at OU, Young made himself into one of the best Sooners ever, becoming the first player in NCAA history to lead the nation in scoring and assists. He was a consensus All-American, then a top-five pick and went to the NBA at least one year -- if not two -- ahead of the anticipated timeline.
"The biggest deal is you think about as a dad is you have those guys there, around the game at that level, it's OK to start having those conversations," Rod Thompson said of the college selection process. "The biggest thing with Trae and Shake is it's always been about fit and they felt like it's been easy for Bryce. He can play on the ball, off the ball and plays the right way. That's been the biggest thing they've talked about, like their situations were fit-driven and throughout this process, we feel we would have a chance to speed up his process, as far as playing at that next level, which is the NBA. If that's one years, two years, three years, whatever that is."
The recruitment of Bryce is fascinating. Rod's son is being courted by two men who were his head coach at Tulsa: UNC assistant Steve Robinson (two seasons) and Kansas coach Bill Self (one). UNC's attention was captured when Bryce dropped 25 on RJ Hampton's team at a tournament in Dallas in 2018. Kansas was in too, though Rod Thompson kind of half-believed the KU offer when it was made in the spring of 2018, so much so that the family didn't publicly announce the offer after Self made it.
The KU staff was confused -- then made it clear.
"Do we need to mail it to your house, do we need to write it in the sky, send it by telegram?" Thompson recalls Self telling him. "We are offering him a scholarship."
The connections don't end there. Notre Dame is in. It has Ryan Humphrey on staff. He went to the same high school as Bryce and became a McDonald's All-American. Since Rod Thompson has coached and trained in Tulsa for a long time, the connections expand even further, like with new Arkansas associate head coach Chris Crutchfield, formerly of Oklahoma, whose children were coached by Thompson. Lee Mayberry, a former first-round pick out of Arkansas, is "practically an uncle" for Bryce, Rod told me.
"It's a very interesting dynamic, and the reason I say that is it can be a little touchy because you have that relationship and I'm that type I never want to be in a relationship where I want to push Bryce off and say, 'Hey, man, you need to check my son out, he could be good,'" Rod Thompson said. "We've never had that conversation. Ever."
And then there's Pooh Williamson, who was hired to Oklahoma's staff this offseason. Pooh and Rod grew up together and actually share an aunt as a blood relative. Williamson was a senior when Rod was a freshman and they won the 2A state high school title. Rod went to Tulsa because Pooh went to Tulsa.
"I have tons of trust in my dad," Bryce said. "He has so many ties to these coaches. … I want the coaches to be hard on me, to love me outside of practice but push me not to cut any corners and make sure I'm doing everything right."
But it's an unsuspecting school that could have in the inside track on not just Bryce, but the most dynamic player in the Class of 2020: Cade Cunningham. Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton has put himself in an enviable position. He discovered Cunningham by accident in the first live period after getting to Oklahoma State, in 2016, when he was then an assistant for Brad Underwood. Boynton was the first coach at a high-major program to offer Cunningham.
The same is true of Bryce, who got a scholarship offer from Oklahoma State when he was 14. In fact, after Boynton got the head job when Underwood left for Illinois in March 2017, among his first calls as acting head coach was to Rod Thompson to assure him that Bryce's scholarship offer for 2020 was not only still on the table, but of the utmost priority. Bryce was less than a month removed from turning 15, and at that point wasn't even a surefire future top-100 player.
So now Oklahoma State -- which in June-- could be working toward having one of the best recruiting classes in 2020. Multiple sources told CBS Sports that there's potential for both five-star players to make their way to Stillwater -- and four-star point guard Davonte Davis is already committed. When I asked Bryce about the possibility of teaming up with Cunningham at Oklahoma State, he said, "That's valid. I like Cade as a player and to be able to play alongside a player like him would be great."
What's more intriguing about the situation is how the two didn't grow up in the same state or play for the same grassroots team. This is no package deal situation. It just might -- might -- wind up being a scenario in which two potential future pros opt for an unconventional path and see each other as a complementary pieces in a revamp for a historic program.
I asked Rod Thompson about this possibility as well.
"I think you're in the ballpark," he said. "They kind of got to know each other at the (NBPA) Top 100 camp, and I got to know his parents. Listen, Mike Boynton has done a tremendous job recruiting Bryce. Automatically you want to play with good players, so that's something, that could be a great pair, with Bryce and Cade Cunningham in the backcourt at Oklahoma State. Now, also, two kids that played in my program last year are now at OSU, which are the Boone twins. But I think a lot of that came with Boynton doing a great job recruiting. Is that a possibility? Bryce and Cade, not to my knowledge, have had conversations about, 'Hey, we need to play together.' Bryce wants to play with good players and he's always voiced that. That's where that came from. OSU hiring his brother probably strengthens the chances."
Wouldn't it be a creative (if not welcomed) twist for college basketball if Oklahoma State pulled in two of the 20 best players in the Class of 2020? Cunningham cut his list to five on Thursday night. At this point, when your brother's on staff at OSU, it feels like an inevitable formality. But the player who could vault the Cowboys to an higher level is Bryce Thompson. He's in a position now he couldn't have anticipated even three months ago. There are no bad choices, and his parents are letting him make this decision: we're talking about a young man who, when he was 10, left the U.S. to live a month in Amiens, France.
Thompson will reveal his first version of finalists by mid-August. Expected to be on that list are the Oklahoma schools, UNC, Kansas, Michigan State, Arkansas and we'll see who else. There are a lot of really good coaches with really good pitches to get Thompson to leave home.
But if he winds up staying in-state, he'll beto build something local and special for himself. The Trae Young story had a few drawbacks, but talk to that family and they'll tell you they absolutely made the right decision. Facts like that will unquestionably work in Oklahoma State and Oklahoma's favor. The Cowboys haven't had a top-20 recruiting class in 13 years. Cunningham and Thompson are the kinds of talents that, if they choose to link up, would alter the outlook of the Big 12 and the shape of college basketball in 2020-21.