*Article by Blake Long, Sports Information Director at Northeast Mississippi Community College
*Photo Credit: Blake Long
Pearl, Miss. - One of the most decorated women's basketball players to ever represent Northeast Mississippi Community College is officially taking her place amongst the greatest athletic figures in the history of the Magnolia State.
Evelyn Thompson has been selected as Northeast's representative for the 2018 class of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) Sports Hall of Fame.
The annual induction ceremony is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24 at the Clyde Muse Center on the Rankin County campus of Hinds Community College.
"Our congratulations go out to Evelyn and her family for this induction," said Northeast president Ricky Ford. "Evelyn had a huge impact on the success of the Lady Tiger basketball program during her career. She achieved many individual accolades both on and off the court."
Thompson becomes the sixth legendary figure from the Lady Tigers' dynasty in the 1980s to become enshrined into the MACJC Sports Hall of Fame. She joins Brenda Mayes and Kunshinge Sorrell-Howard, who both currently coach the Northeast ladies, Audrey Covington, Phyllis Stafford Dilworth plus her mentor in Ford.
"Anytime you receive an award like this, your first initial reaction is shock," Thompson said. "Then, of course, it's followed by a tremendous amount of gratitude and appreciation for being in such an elite group of people. So I was very excited about it."
Thompson turned an outstanding collegiate career at Northeast and Auburn (Ala.) University into an exceptional profession in the coaching ranks that has spanned 20-plus years with stops across the country.
The LaGrange, Ga., native arrived on the Booneville campus in the fall of 1986 and instantly worked her way into the starting lineup. Thompson helped the Lady Tigers go 23-0 in the regular season and achieve a No. 1 national ranking from the Associated Press (AP).
Northeast extended its impressive stretch into the postseason with victories over Northwest Mississippi Community College and the now-defunct Utica Junior College to capture the state and regional championships.
The Lady Tigers advanced to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Tournament and dispatched of Casper (Wyo.) College, Kilgore (Texas) College and Moberly Area (Mo.) Community College to reach the title game.
Thompson tallied 15 points, which was second highest on the team, to help Northeast overcome a two-point halftime deficit and beat St. Gregory's (Okla.) College 68-64 in the finals to finish a perfect 34-0 campaign and claim what is still the only national championship in school history.
"We're extremely proud of being able to do that and being in some elite company," Thompson said. "To be the one that was left standing, I don't know how you can really put that into words because that was an exceptional feat. We wouldn't have been able to do it without the guidance of coach Ford, my teammates and the support of the community at Northeast."
The 5-9 versatile athlete that could play both guard and forward was even better during her sophomore campaign. Thompson averaged 24 points, four rebounds and three assists per game during the 1987-88 season.
She also shot 55 percent from the field and 71 percent from the free throw line to become the first and only Lady Tiger to gain Kodak/Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-American honors.
Thompson was the leading scorer for Northeast on a vast majority of nights during her final campaign in the City of Hospitality. That team rose to as high as 11th in the national polls and won the Lady Tigers' fourth consecutive state championship.
She had 24 points in the 1988 MACJC title contest in which the Northeast pulled out an 85-72 triumph over Coahoma Community College inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum. The Lady Tigers also bested Coahoma for the MACJC North Division crown.
Thompson, who also played slow-pitch softball at Northeast, received All-American laurels from the NJCAA as well prior to signing with Auburn. She is listed on Team USA's all-time women's basketball roster after competing in the United State Olympic Festival (USOF) and winning a silver medal as part of the South squad.
The LaGrange (Ga.) High School graduate continued her success on the court at Auburn. She was part of two consecutive teams from 1988-90 that reached the NCAA championship game and won both a Southeastern Conference (SEC) regular season and tournament title.
Thompson scored 49 total points in three outings at the NCAA Mideast Regional as a senior in 1990 to guide the Lady Tigers to the NCAA Final Four with victories over Tennessee Tech University, Vanderbilt (Tenn.) University and the University of Washington. She earned All-Regional Team recognition for her efforts.
She was a reserve during her junior campaign, but appeared in 32 games and averaged 4.8 points and two rebounds. Thompson stepped into a starting role one year later and increased her productivity with 10.4 points per game.
Thompson, who played at Auburn under the watch of coach Joe Ciampi, was named to the SEC All-Tournament Team in 1990 as well after assisting the Lady Tigers in downing the University of Tennessee in the title matchup in Albany, Ga.
Her coaching stops include nationwide locations at Arizona State University, Western Kentucky University, the University of Buffalo (N.Y.), Michigan State University, Stony Brook (N.Y.) University, Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State University.
Thompson's teams have qualified for the NCAA Tournament three times, including in 1992 at Arizona State, 1994 at Western Kentucky and 2009 at Michigan State. That Lady Spartans squad advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
Her 2008 Michigan State squad was the runner-up of the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). She was elevated to interim head coach at Stony Brook in January 2011 and currently serves in the top position at Cleveland State (Tenn.) Community College.
Even with more than two decades of coaching at the NCAA Division I level and now in the NJCAA, Thompson still reverts to the lessons she learned under Ford as a Lady Tiger when instructing her student-athletes.
"Coach Ford helped build and shape my whole idea of how I coach my young women, which is from a holistic standpoint," said Thompson. "I don't just coach the basketball player. I coach the woman. Our philosophy, which I carved and crafted from my experiences at Northeast, is you have to be invested in the whole person."
Thompson graduated from Northeast in 1988 with an Associate's degree in English and from Auburn in 1990 with a Bachelor's degree in English as well. She was previously inducted into the Northeast Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.