A Thompson family reunion

Brothers T.J. and Landy Thompson are self-proclaimed polar opposites. T.J.’s noisy, Landy’s quiet. T.J.’s a compact 5-foot-10-inches, Landy’s a taller six-foot-one-inch. T.J. plays for GW, Landy plays for Mount St. Mary’s College.

Many aspects of their personalities, even their fashion sense, are very different. Twenty-two-year-old T.J.’s size 46 shorts droop almost to the tops of his Nikes each game. Twenty-one-year-old Landy, on the other hand, sticks with the semi-traditional length shorts.

But with all their differences, the two insist there no sibling rivalry – unless their teams play each other, which they did last night. T.J.’s Colonials prevailed 81-58 over Landy’s Mountaineers, but the competition ends there, they said. The brothers, who grew up in nearby Gaithersburg, Md., form a tandem that has scored a total of 2,073 points, the highest total among active brothers in Division I basketball, and the second most of all-time. Current NBA player Chauncey Billups and his brother, Rodney, have the all-time collegiate record of 2,110 points, a number the Thompsons will likely shatter this season.

“They’re very different,” said their father, Ronald, an IBM computer programmer who played college basketball at Clarion University. “But both of them have a knack for meeting up in the middle and connecting.”

Mother Denise, sister K.C., and Ronald take pride in their sons’ bond.

“They will always, always, always protect each other,” Ronald said. “And pick each other up,” Denise added.

“We’re like best friends,” T.J. said. “It’s always nice to have someone to talk to,” added Landy, who said he knows if there is ever a problem, his brother will be on the phone, ready to talk.

According to their mother, when the two played high school soccer together, an opponent made a hard tackle on T.J., forcing him from the game. Landy, a defender, came back to make a hard tackle on the same opponent that bumped his brother. Landy earned a yellow card, which he said was fine with him.

More recently, when T.J. struggled with his shot at the end of last season during the A-10 Tournament and the National Invitation Tournament, Landy came to the aid of his brother. When the season ended, T.J. even questioned whether he belonged on the GW team, his father said. However, Landy was there to talk to his brother, simply telling him that he should not let a few games permanently get him down.

“It was only one or two games (that T.J. struggled),” Ronald said. “It’s so easy for kids to focus on the moment, they have to look at the bigger picture.”

Landy himself struggled shooting last year, but T.J. was there on the phone, reminding his brother to get back to focus on what got both of them into Division I basketball programs – fundamentals.

Although the brothers have a close relationship, they are both very proud individuals. Each cited examples of helping the other, but not the other way around.

When asked what Landy has taught him, T.J. smiled and said, “He hasn’t taught me nothing.” When asked how T.J. has helped him, Landy flashed a similar grin and said, “Oh, I don’t need his help.”

At GW, T.J. is no stranger to struggle. His first two years were difficult times, as the Colonials finished with sub-.500 records. Last year, GW finished 18-12, and this year, T.J., a senior guard, hopes to guide his team into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in coach Karl Hobbs’ tenure.

“He’s had fun helping the resurrection of the (GW) program,” Ronald, his father, said. T.J. is the lone player left from the Tom Penders era. He could have transferred when Penders resigned in 2001, but instead he stuck around, a move he said certainly “paid off.”

Both Thompsons are enjoying a strong season so far, as T.J. is averaging close to 13 points per game and Landy is averaging more than 21 points and 12 assists per contest.

But Ronald said he emphasizes that the world exists beyond basketball. His sons go to schools only 70 miles apart and speak on the phone every day.

“In all honesty,” Ronald said, “you always have to step back and look at the bigger picture called life.”

Basketball, Ronald added, should be a vehicle to other aspects of life. It has taught his sons about leadership, discipline, and dignity. However, that is not to say they should not have fun, on the court and in their social lives, he said.

As their parents attest, like normal kids, they got into a little bit of trouble. It was always their father, Denise said, who ended up catching them.

“The boys were smart,” Ronald said. “They knew the right answer is the one their parents wanted to hear. But I’m from Philadelphia, and I could figure it out. They eventually became open, I’m not going to say wide open, but they are open with me.”

Growing up, Landy, T.J. and sister K.C. played basketball together and with their father on a consistent basis, learning the fundamentals of the sport. When the two boys reached high school age, Ronald’s days as a participant were numbered.

“I played until I decided they could beat me,” Ronald mused. “Then I retired.”

The brotherly basketball odyssey began when the boys were about seven and eight, respectively, K.C. said. The three would play pick-up games at courts by their home, at times hustling opponents.

“We’d go out there like we were two sorry basketball players,” T.J. said. “Then we’d end up taking their quarters.”

K.C., who played college ball at Maryland’s Bowie State University, said she went right along with her brothers. She also opted away from playing with her siblings when they were in high school.

“When I went to college I realized they were taller than me,” she said. “I didn’t want to come out it beat up and bruised.”

K.C. escaped her brothers’ battle, and she and her parents spent last night watching her brothers go at it, just like they were little kids again.

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