HAMDEN — It was a rough ending to Taniyah Thompson’s basketball career at Hamden, and not just because of what happened on the court.
In addition to the Green Dragons losing in the Class LL state semifinals, Thompson also had three family members die in March. She also had to deal with making a change with where she was going to play college basketball.
Thompson had already signed a national letter of intent to play at the University of Rhode Island. But once head coach Daynia La-Force was fired after the season, Thompson decided to re-open her recruitment.
She decided to move on and now, instead, will be playing at East Carolina next season.
“It was very tough, everything coming at once. That’s just life. Nothing is planned out. You have to take it as it comes. It’s good I had other interest and offers,” said Thompson after a Friday afternoon ceremony recognizing 21 Hamden student-athletes and their college destinations. Among them was Thompson’s teammate Makaela Johnson, who will be playing at Division I Albany next season.
“The facilities are really nice and the campus is just beautiful,” said Johnson, who also considered Holy Cross, Rhode Island, Quinnipiac, Providence and Wagner. “The coaching staff (was great), the players were very welcoming and I created bonds with them.”
Thompson said La-Force reached out to the Thompson family to let them know she had been fired. Thompson did consider staying, but said the process to hire a coach was taking too long (Tammi Reiss was hired as La-Force’s replacement on April 17).
“Most of the coaching staff got fired, there was so much uncertainty. I just wanted to be sure, so I asked to be released to look at other colleges,” Thompson said.
East Carolina didn’t recruit Thompson originally, but the school also hired a new coach: Kim McNeill, who left the same position at the University of Hartford. McNeil brought her assistant coaches with her — a staff that had recruited Thompson.
“That was one of my favorite coaching staffs in the recruiting process,” Thompson, 17, said.
Thompson said several schools that recruited her the first time around jumped back in: Providence, Hartford, Robert Morris and Cal State Bakersfield. But even though traveling far away wasn’t what she may have wanted, playing in the American Athletic Conference — and playing the likes of UConn — was too much of an opportunity to pass up.
So Thompson verbally committed, then signed her letter of intent with the Greenville, North Carolina school in April.
“I never back down from a challenge. Being in the AAC, there are a lot of good players and coaches. I’ll have to come with my A game and work hard,” Thompson said. “Trust the process, stay focused, don’t be afraid to be different and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. I’m a family person, so me going far was something out of my comfort zone.”
Other Hamden athletes moving on to play at Division I schools include: Alex Aurora (Lehigh, golf), Isabella Collins (Gardner-Webb, soccer), Alysia Joseph (Hartford, track and field), Love Melton (Kentucky, track and field), Tori Roberts (Tennessee State, track and field) and Chris Wallace (Holy Cross, track and field).