When Tulsa World co-worker Kelly Hines and I entered Nathan E. Harris Field House at Booker T. Washington High School, it was immediately apparent that this wasn’t a routine, seventh-hour-of-the-school-day run for the Hornet basketball team.
Conversing at midcourt were Booker T. coach Conley Phipps and Texas coach Shaka Smart.
A few minutes later, there was the arrival of Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger and new assistant coach Pooh Williamson.
Kansas’ Bill Self and three staff members made a rock-star entrance.
First-year Arkansas head man Eric Musselman then joined Smart, Kruger and Self in getting a front-row look at highly regarded Hornet senior guard Bryce Thompson and backcourt teammate Trey Phipps (who recently committed to OU).
Oklahoma State’s Mike Boynton and assistant Scott Sutton have aggressively recruited Thompson. The OSU coaches were not at Booker T. on Monday afternoon, but Boynton already had emphatically reminded Thompson of OSU’s interest.
At 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Boynton visited the Thompson home. The Thompsons knew to expect a midnight doorbell.
Monday was the first day of an NCAA recruiting period that leads to Nov. 13 — the first date on which recruits may sign national letters of intent.
From Thompson, there may not be a commitment announcement before Halloween. There may not be an announcement until Nov. 13, the first date on which recruits may sign national letters of intent.
Last weekend, the 6-foot-4 Thompson visited the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill. He recently designated Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, OSU, OU and Texas as finalists in his process.
Self, Kruger, Smart and Musselman engaged in small talk with people throughout the gym, but they were focused on the floor during Hornet drills that combined skills work and conditioning.
Self’s brought three assistants: Norm Roberts (who also was a member of Self’s Oral Roberts and University of Tulsa staffs), Kurtis Townsend and Jerrance Howard.
Accompanying Musselman was Chris Crutchfield, a former ORU and OU assistant. While with the Sooners, Crutchfield was a factor in the successful recruiting of guards Buddy Hield and Trae Young.
The OU crew included Carlin Hartman and Williamson (a former TU assistant and former TU interim head coach).
Bryce’s father Rod Thompson and Williamson have been friends since they were kids in Beggs, and during the ’90s they both played the point guard position at TU.
Williamson is a protégé of former Golden Hurricane coach Tubby Smith. After leaving TU in 2005, Williamson was an assistant coach at Wichita State, Texas A&M, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech, Memphis and Miami (Fla.).
Because of Williamson’s deep-rooted relationship with the Thompson family, it is believed that Kruger’s June hiring of Williamson could be a game-changer in the recruiting of Bryce Thompson.
“We knew all of those coaches were coming,” Conley Phipps explained. “Coaches started contacting me or Rod a couple of weeks ago, letting us know they would be here on Sept. 9. I told my players what to expect. I said, ‘Guys, it’s going to look the Final Four when we work out on Monday.’
“Our players were excited. Even our older guys who’ve had some big-time experiences – they were pretty fired up to see some big-time college coaches in our gym.”
Since 2017, Conley Phipps estimates, coaches representing 40 Division I programs have visited the Booker T. gym to watch players like former Hornet big man Seth Hurd, Trey Phipps and Bryce Thompson.