Thompson honored, No. 20 jersey retired

  • (Kelli Graves • Clay County Progress) Former Lady Yellow Jacket Amanda Thompson holds her now retired No. 20 high in front of a packed gym as her family looks on with smiles.
    (Kelli Graves • Clay County Progress) Former Lady Yellow Jacket Amanda Thompson holds her now retired No. 20 high in front of a packed gym as her family looks on with smiles.

The atmosphere in The Hive was electric Friday, Jan. 10 as fans poured in to witness history. Following a Lady Yellow Jacket win over Andrews, Hayesville High School officials made their way to half court. The reason, to retire the No. 20 worn by Amanda Thompson during her time at HHS.

Thompson made her way onto the floor with her family as the standing-room only crowd erupted in applause. While she stood on the court, Thompson’s accomplishments were read so fans would realize what an impactful player she was for the

Lady Jackets. Those statistics included 77 wins, a Smoky Mountain Conference cham- pionship, a SMC tournament championship, two Battle of the States Championships, an Elite 8 appearance, a Fi- nal Four game appearance, four time All-Conference player, 2014-15 SMC Player of the Year, two time North Carolina Prep All-State team, 1408 points, 1056 rebounds, 345 blocks, 313 assists and 324 steals.

After graduating from HHS in 2015, Thompson went on to be an impact player for the Mercer University Bears in Atlanta. For Mercer, Thompson was named team captain her freshman year and would go on to add to her career achievements. While playing for the Bears, Thompson led her team to two consecutive Southern Conference championships, was named as the 2019 Player of the Year and the 2019 Southern Conference Female Athlete of the Year along with multiple other accolades on her resume.

“It’s something special that’s hard to describe,” Thompson said about having her number retired. “To me it’s a testament to the program we have here at Hayesville.” The Hayesville legend said she never thought about personal statistics or career accomplishments while playing in The Hive. “In high school the moment is always intense and I think I was just always focused on one game at a time.”

Thompson credited her time at HHS for her success in college, saying, “I learned about basketball here through Coach (Chad) McClure and all the assistant coaches and my dad (Keith Thompson), obviously and I feel like when I went to Mercer my basketball IQ was higher than average. That’s because of the great pro- gram we have here.” While knowledge of the game put Thompson on the fast track to making waves at the next level, so did the competition she faced. “I got to play against great competitors in the Smoky Mountain Conference and also at practice. I had to go up against super talented teammates at practice and all of that helped me prepare.”

As for the ceremony, Thompson said it invoked a mixture of emotions. “For me it was hard to be standing in the middle of the court while they read off a list of accomplishments, but it was fun to have my family out there with me and I knew what it meant for the whole community, who helped raise me, for me to be standing out there.” While the fans were saluting Thompson with cheers and applause, her thoughts were returning the sentiments. “More than anything I was appreciating all the people who were in the stands. Most of them, if not all of them, have had an impact and are continuing to have an impact on my life.”

One of those people is Lady Jacket head coach Chad McClure. “She’s one of the best to ever come through these halls,” McClure said of Thompson. “Not just as an athlete, but one of the best people.” McClure got to see Thompson’s game evolve from the sidelines and knew she was something special. “I knew at the end her career that her stats would put her into consideration to have her number retired.” McClure said the process is multistep and usually isn’t considered until five years after a player has graduated. “I felt with her situation, I wanted to try to get it done a little earlier since her mom was battling cancer. We had plans to do it at a football game, but God had other plans so we decided tonight would be a good night to give her the recognition she deserves.”

When asked for one word to describe Thompson on the court, McClure quickly answered with, “Toughness.” He then elaborated saying, “She had toughness like no other but was also a natural leader who was selfless. She probably could have had over 2,000 points, but she was willing to let her teammates get glory before she did.” McClure summed it up by saying, “She just made everyone around her better and I’m just glad I got to sit back and watch and be a part of it.”

As the athletic director for HHS, Mike Cottrell played a key role in Thompson be- ing recognized and having her number retired. Cottrell eagerly shared his opinion of Thompson, saying, “I am very proud of Amanda and all of her accomplishments on the floor at Hayesville and at Mercer.” Cottrell then touched on Thompson’s post-career impact with, “I think the most telling part of Amanda’s success is the role model she’s become for our student athletes here at Hayesville High School.”

Now a teacher at HHS, Thompson has been able to volunteer some of her time to help with the Lady Yellow Jacket team. When asked if that is an area where she would like to focus in the future, Thompson stuck with what is comfortable for her, saying, “It’s kind of like when I was in high school, I’m just focused on the moment and enjoying what I’m doing right now and we will just see where that takes me.”

Thompson’s jersey will be placed in the trophy case located in the lobby of the high school gym where fans can appreciate her accomplishments for years to come.