MICHIGAN CITY — It happened for Trinity Thompson this summer, that point in her basketball career where she developed her 'dawg' mentality.
"The teams we were playing against, our coach would tell us, we could beat them, but we were playing like we were scared. We didn't attack them like we know how to do," said the Michigan City junior, who ran with Indy Lady Gym Rats. "Once you have that competitiveness, as the coaches would say, that 'dawg' in you, there's no other way but for you to be a 'dawg' every time you step on the court, so that's the way I thought."
So began the transformation of Thompson from a good to great high school player, from a sophomore who averaged over nine points a game to a junior scoring over 20 a game in the summer, flummoxing opposing coaches while drawing several Division I mid-major offers.
"Playing with (the Lady Gym Rats) is an entire different level of intensity," she said. "We got to know each other on an entire different level. We're like sisters. Out on the court, we knew, OK, I feed you the ball, you're going to do something with it. I had to go up and down the court very fast. The last half of the summer, I moved up to the (Elite Youth Basketball League) team. The girls were bigger and stronger than me. I was more on the shy side because it wasn't my original team, but they bettered me to become the player I am now."
The 6-foot forward's ascent will be critical to an M.C. program in its first year after the graduation of career scoring leader Hannah Noveroske (Indiana).
"Let's not sugarcoat it, Trinity is going to be highlighted," Wolves coach Mike Megyese said. "People are going to look at her as our horse and we're going to ride that horse as much as we can. She'll difficult for anybody to stop, being able to go inside and outside. She's one of the strongest players in the Region, if not the strongest basketball player."
The off-season for Thompson actually started back in the spring, when she scrimmaged and trained with the Calumet boys basketball team.
"I call (Warriors coach Dominique Nelson) my uncle coach," she said. "He and my dad go way back to their (Tennessee State) days. Basketball isn't something I do just 10 months a year. This is my life, 365 days, 24-7. I just go on. It's limitless for me."
Close to her current height when she called herself a "pretty chunky" eighth grader, she started running in order to lose weight and has slimmed down considerably, even from from last season. That conditioning will be particularly important as her minutes will be extensive, given the Wolves' lack of depth.
"I'm looking forward to it," she said. "I'm out there doing something I love. I know what I can do, but at the same time, I know I have no worries because I know my teammates are going to step up and have my back no matter what. There's been a lot happening here, but we are still going to be a good team. I'm very excited for Wednesday at 7 o'clock."
Both "anxious and happy" to move into the star's role, Thompson is ready to take on all that it means, including the extra defensive attention and the leadership role.
"(Megyese) was trying to mold me into being that player last year and I wasn't ready to step into it," she said. "But during the summer, it was a lot of games where I had to step up. It wasn't anything to be afraid of once you're there, the responsibility that comes with it. You're up there and you have to step up there. You can't bring yourself down or do anything that will bring you down. You can ask my coach, I have no fear of physicality. I love it. I will draw physicality. I know I can get a foul on the other team. You're never too prepared to have two people in your face during a game, but it's nothing to be worried about."
A natural power forward, Thompson enjoys working in the paint, but has worked hard to expand her skill set.
"Being able to dribble as a big honestly is a gift," she said. "You have some bigs, all they can really do is post up. My coaches always say I have to get myself outside my comfort zone. That's shooting a 3 in a game, shooting while somebody's in my face, while somebody's coming out to attack me. I've actually been working on 3-point shooting a lot more. That's one improvement I'm really hoping to make. I wasn't good at it. I'm not so confident in my shot, but if I'm open, I can take it. It's moreso being confident I can do it."
While City's overall experience is limited, Thompson will have a backcourt complement in classmate Katelyn Halfacre.
"Katelyn is going to be a very good guard," Thompson said. "She can see things that probably no other guard can see. It's very good to have her as my guard on my team. She's like my best friend. We talk every day. She can stay on the 3 all day if she wants to. When we're down by three and need a 3, I know the exact person to go to. She doesn't stick to one spot. Even though she's like 5-2, 5-3, she can take you to the hole. She's not scared of physicality. She says, heart over height any day. That's why I really love Katelyn. That's my girl."
Thompson has already picked up offers from Western Michigan, Pikeville, Wright State and Marshall. Southern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, IUPUI, Marquette, Valparaiso, Southeast Missouri and Jacksonville State have also shown interest.
"I plan on doing my official visits in August and committing in September," she said. "I don't want to go through my senior season not knowing where I'm going. I have another year to play basketball, another summer to play AAU. I don't want to limit myself. I want to keep my options open."