An impact player who left his mark— and is still popular
Five Questions for Rod Thompson
By John Ring
It was Silver Streaks Alumni Night last Friday at John Thiel Gym. Around 50 former Streak players attended the Galesburg-Rock island game and mingled with fans after the game at GHS.
For many, one of the highlights of the evening was being able to catch up with Rod Thompson. That, in itself, is quite a statement.
Thompson, a 6’5” power forward, was part of the Silver Streak team that finished 2nd in 1998. He and Joey Range paired up to lead Galesburg to a 30-win season and will always be known around here as “Joey and Rod.” Despite the fact that he played only his senior season here in Galesburg, Thompson quickly captivated Silver Streak fans with his intense play, colorful mouthpieces and his affability and friendliness off the court.
Rod now works for Nationwide Insurance and lives in Des Moines. “That’s my Clark Kent job,” laughed Thompson. Same old Rod. He looks the same and acts the same. Who can’t like this guy?
The Thompson transfer during the summer of 1997 from Chicago launched an IHSA investigation. Rod came to Galesburg because of the violence and crime in the neighborhood he lived in. His family felt it was safer for him to be tucked away in Galesburg instead of Chicago. When I visited the IHSA office in 2000, my tour guide pointed out a meeting room, off to the side of the front entrance. “That’s the Rod Thompson room.” It was the meeting room where Thompson’s fate was decided.
The Silver Streaks dominated a tough Western Big 6 conference. During the 1997-1998 season. They went undefeated and then knocked off Moline for the Sectional Title. The Maroons lost only three games that year, all to Galesburg.
Quincy, along with the Streaks, made it to the Final Four. Two of their three losses came to Galesburg.
The Streaks played and lost to a formidable Whitney Young team in the championship game to end the season.
1. Many who look back at that 1998 State Tournament still say it was the most solid, toughest field ever. What are your thoughts about that?
“Our goal was to get to State and there isn’t any doubt that there were some powerful teams there. To even get to State, we had to beat some good teams. We beat a good Moline team, even the Regional game against DeKalb, they had that big guy, what was his name? [Chad Mazalowski, who blocked four shots in the first quarter and helped give DeKalb a 16-4 lead] He was a very good athlete, he blocked some shots and they took off on a lead. We then beat Centralia when we got to State and then played Whitney Young. Going into the game, our thoughts were that we could beat them. We played them the summer before and I played with all of those guys ever since I was 12 years old. They were my buddies. We knew we had our hands full but we felt like we could win.”
2. Do you look back and wish you would have had a couple of extra minutes to play?
“We made some mistakes late in the game that hurt us. We were right there but we had some breakdowns and made some mistakes. We put ourselves in a position to win the game but we just didn’t execute. The ball didn’t bounce our way a few times either but that’s gonna happen.”
3. What exactly was it that led you to Galesburg?
“A lot of people don’t realize how hard it was for me to leave Chicago and come to Galesburg. When I was looking at making the decision, I knew I was giving up a lot but I looked at Galesburg and I knew Joey. I knew that Steve Glasgow was a legit guard. I knew Taylor Thiel was a good player. I knew Mike Tapper was a good player. But I knew Joey and I could play together. I knew there would be times where I would have to back off and let Joey play and there would be times I knew I would have to be tough and go after it. But I was open minded about the whole thing. We got to be close as a team. We lost Jasson Wessels and he would have played a much bigger part in our team if he hadn’t got sick. But we had a big-time relationship, all of us did.”
4. What schools contacted you?
“Let’s see, it’s been 11 years now (laughs). But Centralia contacted me. Whitney Young wanted me. There were a lot of schools that contacted me.”
5. Did you know that Coach Mike Miller had already taken a team to the state championship game a few years earlier?
“I didn’t know anything about that. I didn’t know much of anything about Coach Miller. I knew Joey and I knew it would be best for me to leave Chicago because of things going on. Really, we were both unselfish players and that’s what it took in the end for us to accomplish what we did. I felt it could be something good, something special down here and it was. It was a good situation that got pieced together. We faced some adversity along the way with Jason and we played horrible in that game in St. Louis But we put together a great season. It’ll be something that Taylor, Steve, Mike and I can tell our grandkids about someday.”