Edwardsville graduate Andrew Thompson, middle, with left to right, wife Amanda, family friend Jaylen, foster son Isaiah and daughters Sydni and Paige.

Edwardsville graduate Andrew Thompson, middle, with left to right, wife Amanda, family friend Jaylen, foster son Isaiah and daughters Sydni and Paige.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – When Andrew Thompson moved to Edwardsville from Florida at the age of 13, he quickly realized that it was his kind of town.

And the feeling turned out to be mutual.

As a 6-foot-7 senior during the 1992-93 basketball season at Edwardsville High School, Thompson averaged 22 points and 15 rebounds a game on the way to earning Class AA All-State honors. He helped EHS to a 24-7 record in its first state tournament appearance since 1956.

“I realized that Edwardsville was a sports-crazy town, which was exactly what I wanted,” said the 46-year-old Thompson, who lives in Winter Haven, Florida, and is an area manager for Encompass Health.

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Every Wednesday, the Edwardsville Intelligencer will release a “Where are they now?” story about former student-athletes from Edwardsville High School. If there is a former student-athlete you would like to know about, please e-mail Scott Marion at [email protected]

“In Florida, you surfed and skateboarded and played a lot of baseball, but when I got to Edwardsville, I really started focusing on basketball because I noticed that they took it very seriously up here.”

Edwardsville ended its 37-year state tournament drought with a 58-43 victory over Centralia in the Class AA super-sectional at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Even before that win, the excitement over EHS basketball had already reached a fever pitch.

“Not being from Edwardsville, I didn’t know how big of a deal (basketball) was, but I remember one freezing cold day where I looked outside the lobby of Lucco Gym and there was a line all the way down our parking lot to buy tickets to our games,” said Thompson, who also played baseball for three seasons at EHS.

“I went outside, and my parents were out there buying tickets. People were yelling at me and a couple of my teammates to get back inside the gym so I wouldn’t catch a cold. That’s when I realized it was a big deal.”

Edwardsville’s run in 1992-93 ended with a 48-40 loss to Rockford Guilford in the state quarterfinals at Champaign.

Long before that, though, Thompson had established himself as one of the best players in the state. He was the second of 12 Associated Press All-State players under coach Mike Waldo, preceded only by Joe Blasingim in 1991.

Thompson was part of a solid starting five that also featured Justin Range, Jeff Lyles and Jeff Busch, while seniors Mike Schwarz, Sam Drake, Ramoun Jones and Darrell Conner, junior Aaron Pannell and sophomores Dwight Wood and Chris Wright came off the bench.

But Thompson felt the key to the Tigers’ success was Waldo, who went on to have a Hall of Fame career in 35 years as a head coach, including 30 at EHS.

“When I first moved to Edwardsville, I lived in Holiday Shores, which is kind of far away from town, and coach Waldo lived out that way as well,” said Thompson, who has two daughters, Sydni, 20; and Paige, 17, with his wife, Amanda. “The summer after my freshman year, he brought to my house a weight bench and some weights that he had laying around.

“He put together a workout for me that was six days a week between running and lifting and he would come over from time to time and show me what to do. He even got my dad involved. That put the framework together of who that guy was, and I never had a coach after him that cared as much. I would have run through a wall for him – all he needed to do was tell me to.”

Thompson was a three-year starter in basketball at EHS but injured his ankle 11 games into his sophomore year and missed the rest of the season. After reconstructive surgery, he played baseball the following spring.

He averaged about 15 points and 10 rebounds a game as a junior in 1991-92, when Edwardsville posted a 15-12 record and lost in the regional.

Before making an impact at EHS, Thompson was born and raised in Altamonte Springs, Florida, and moved to Edwardsville in the summer before his freshman year.

“My cousins all went to Edwardsville High School, so we kind of knew what to expect, and they all knew (former EHS baseball coach) Tom Pile,” Thompson said. “At that time, I was playing baseball, basketball and football, and I the first thing I did in Edwardsville that summer was to go to Tom Pile’s baseball camp.”

Pile, along with assistant coaches Waldo and Darrell Butler, quickly made an impression on Thompson, and in turn, he earned a varsity role.

As a freshman in 1990, he made a brief appearance in the Class AA state championship game as EHS earned its first state title in a 4-0 victory over Joliet Catholic.

As a sophomore in 1991, Thompson pitched in relief as the Tigers’ state-record 64-game winning streak ended with a 10-3 loss to South Holland (Thornwood) in the state championship game.

“My freshman year I was a pinch-runner in the championship game. I went from first to second base on a fielder’s choice and then I got pulled out of the game,” Thompson said.

“My sophomore year I was in the rotation after Joe Blasingim and Jason Boyd and I was undefeated. I came in in relief for the championship game and pitched three or four innings and I was really nervous. I was praying that I didn’t bounce it to the plate on my first pitch or sail it over the batter’s head to the backstop.”

While in Florida, Thompson played on strong summer baseball teams that included several future major leaguers.

But he felt that Pile, Butler and Waldo helped take him to another level as a player.

“Pile was the general and Darrell Butler was the nuts and bolts of the mechanics of your swing and how you fielded a ball and how you threw,” Thompson said. “Then you had Waldo for the pitching, and I don’t think Edwardsville appreciated the three of them enough for all of the years they were together.

“As a pitcher growing up, I had a good arm and I was tall, but I was terrible. It wasn’t until I got to high school and got tutelage from coach Waldo that I actually learned how to pitch.”

Thompson played baseball at EHS through his junior year before concentrating on basketball as a senior.

After graduating from EHS, Thompson moved on to Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State), where he played basketball for one season in 1993-94.

He then transferred to Drury University, which is also located in Springfield, Missouri.

“We had some success the year I played there, and I ended up starting right away, but about 12 games into the season, I hurt my left knee and had arthroscopic surgery in December,” said Thompson, who had to sit out the 1994-95 season as a transfer.

“By January, I was playing again, but I hurt my knee again and they shut me down for the year. I had surgery in July and the team doctor told me I was done playing. My bone was rubbing on bone and if I continued playing, I would need a knee replacement by the time I was 25.”

Thompson spent another year and a half at Drury before going back to Missouri State, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

He lived another year and a half while working in Springfield but in 2000, he moved back to Florida to be closer to his parents, who had moved from Edwardsville to Winter Haven.

Thompson has worked in the healthcare industry for the last 18 years. He eventually transitioned from medical equipment sales to home health, where physical therapists and social workers are sent to people’s homes.

He doesn’t get to Edwardsville often, but he still has ties to his alma mater and his former EHS teammates.

“It’s in your blood,” Thompson said. “I’m not on Facebook anymore, but when I was, most of my contacts were from Edwardsville. It’s sort of a fraternity and people that have lived in Edwardsville who come down to Florida call me and visit with me.”