For most high schools, a typical basketball season starts in late November and runs, hopefully, into March.
For Culpeper head coach James Thompson, basketball never ends.
In the summer, Thompson coordinates conditioning and summer league games for his players. But it’s not just current Blue Devils he’s helping—former Culpeper players who are now competing at the college level also come home to participate.
“We open up the gym for all of them because I really never stop coaching them individually,” Thompson said. “They’re always going to be Blue Devils, so they should have access to the gyms during the summer. They sacrificed a lot while they were wearing those blue and gold jerseys.”
Thompson also added that making sure the gym is open for his former players ensures they can work on whatever aspects of their game that their respective college coaches asked them to over the summer.
“A lot of times, their head coaches will tell me what they want them to work on during the summer,” he said. “We get together and handle that skill work, but we also play pick-up games as well. We want to have a little fun in the summer, so we have some really good games with plenty of trash talking.”
Culpeper’s basketball program has put 10 players on college rosters over the past 12 years. Five of those—Luther Gibbs, DaiJordan Brown, Chris Simmons, Devin Mosley and Will Jamison—worked out together with Thompson this summer.
The quintet considers Culpeper basketball more like a brotherhood than anything else.
Gibbs, who will be a senior at Division III Christopher Newport this season, played for Thompson for three seasons from 2013-16.
“[Gibbs] ranks up there as one of the most athletically-gifted players I’ve ever coached,” Thompson said of Gibbs. “I don’t rank our players because we love them all the same, but Luther, Josh Majors and Henry Butler all have natural, God-given abilities you can’t take credit for as a coach.”
Thompson said Gibbs could probably play at the D-I level, but noted that he wanted to select a school where he could make an impact right away.
“Luther knew that if he went D-III, he would potentially become an all-conference player, be recognized nationally and have a chance to play overseas,” Thompson said. “I believe those projections will turn out to be true.”
While limited to just 19 games due to a foot injury last season, Gibbs averaged 7.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per contest. He shot 52% from the field and 39% from 3-point range.
Gibbs said adapting to the life of a college athlete was difficult at first, but with the help of his coaches, counselors and teammates, the adjustment became easier over time. He also believes Thompson has played a big part in his success.
“J.T. has always been more than just a coach,” Gibbs said. “He’s a teacher both on and off the court for me. He’s always ensured I made the necessary preparations for everything in life, whether it was on or off the court. There’s no question in my mind that he’s the best coach in Culpeper.”
Gibbs went on to say that, while it’s been nearly four years since he’s been on the Blue Devils’ roster, he feels close with all the players, both current and past.
“The brotherhood at Culpeper is second to none,” he exclaimed. “I’m still close with a lot of those guys I came up playing ball with. When we see each other, no matter how long it’s been, it seems like no time has passed at all. It’s always nice to see their individual successes as well.”
Devin Mosley, who graduated from Culpeper in May, will be playing at D-III Eastern Mennonite this season. He believes being able to play and train with Culpeper alums that are playing or have played college basketball gives him an advantage when it comes to preparing himself for competition at the next level.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to work out with these guys and even pick their brains,” he said. “I can get a feel for what it’s like at the next level and get to know where I stand heading into my first college season.”
Mosley agrees with Gibbs’ assertion that Thompson is more than just a coach.
“[Coach J.T.] will always have a special place in my heart, but the best way to describe him is that he’s like a father figure,” Mosley said. “It’s about more than just the game to him, because he looks out for our future and he wants all of us to go to college and succeed at life.”
Mosley will be playing with a familiar face at EMU, as Simmons is entering his second season there.
Simmons said the training Thompson has provided him with both in high school and during these summer sessions has helped prepare him for the level of training and competition he’s facing in college.
“I really get a feel for how other collegiate athletes train and play,” said Simmons of the training with Thompson and Co. “I can also see what I might need to add to my game in order to become a more complete player.”
Like Simmons, Brown (University of Lynchburg) will also be playing his second year of college basketball this winter.
Brown said the transition from high school to college went smoother than he expected, but he believes this year will be more challenging because of increased expectations for his team.
Brown pointed out that the biggest difference between high school and college for him thus far has been the amount of training that’s required in order to compete with his fellow athletes.
“The training is a lot more intense in college,” he said. “In college, you have to bust your rear end because if you don’t, someone else is.”
Brown admits he looks forward to the summer workouts with his fellow Blue Devils and former coach.
“It’s a lot of fun to work out with my old teammates during the summer, because our relationship is deeper than basketball and I love seeing everyone get better,” he said. “I’m in the situation I am now because of those guys and J.T. They’ve helped me become the player I am now, so yes, it is a brotherhood—a family.”
Jamison, who graduated with Mosley in May, will be playing basketball near Brown at D-III Randolph College in Lynchburg.
“I’m expecting my first year of college to be a test, because I’ll be on my own and I’ll have to do everything myself,” Jamison said. “Basketball-wise, I’m expecting to be able to help my team win and make an impact sooner rather than later.”
Like the other Culpeper grads, Jamison loves being able to improve his game over the summer.
“It’s been great working out with the older guys, because they are always willing to help and give me feedback so I can become a better player,” he said. “And J.T. has been a great coach to me. He’s always been willing to work with me on the court. But more importantly, he’s taught me how to be a better man and how to be accountable for my actions. He truly is like another father figure to me.”
Thompson said it’s always been about building more than just basketball teams at Culpeper.
“The brotherhood at Culpeper is one of a kind, because even if we don’t get along from time to time, we’re still always going to be there for one another,” he said.