Chocowinity native elected to NC Sports Hall of Fame

Published 9:02 am Saturday, February 18, 2023

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Rosalynn Thompson played basketball all the time with her older brother and his friends while growing up in Blounts Creek in the 1970’s.

They played on a dirt court in the neighborhood and the older boys never seemed to mind that Rosalynn kept showing up, because that meant they had even sides for a game. Little did anyone know that the kid sister would end up in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

“That’s where it all started for me,” Thompson, one of 15 standouts from around the state to be inducted in an April ceremony in Raleigh. “I held my own with the boys and they always let me play. I thought basketball was a lot of fun and it’s been my sport from then on. The more I played, the better I became and the more fun I had.”

Thompson made the Chocowinity High School team and was on the conference’s all-tournament team as a sophomore under coach Neil Titus, who gave her the nickname she still uses.

“He was always on us to improve and one day he just blurted out “C’mon Rosie, you can do better”, Thompson said. “It just stuck and I’m still Rosie.”

Even after a standout high school career, Thompson wasn’t thinking about playing in college until then-ECU football coach Pat Dye spoke at the CHS athletics banquet her senior year.

“He asked me where I was going to play in college and I told him nowhere,” Thompson, the Class of ’75 valedictorian, said. “I knew I was going somewhere if I could figure out the finances, but I never thought about playing basketball.”

Dye spread the word around campus and an ECU admissions person was at the high school the following week to arrange enough grant money for Thompson to enroll.

Coach Catherine Bolt wasn’t sure that Thompson could help her team, until she spent the summer playing pickup games with her future teammates.

“I was 5’9 and maybe 120 lbs., so I can’t really blame her,” Thompson said.

“The other girls told her I could play, so I was on the team.”

As they say, the rest is history.

Thompson scored 2,352 points without the benefit of the three-point line and grabbed 1,183 career rebounds, which makes her the program leader in both categories 40 years later.

With a Health/Physical Education degree in hand, Thompson played one year for the St. Louis franchise in the Women’s Professional Basketball League before taking a job teaching physical science at Northern Nash HS in Rocky Mount, where she also coached girls basketball and track.

From there, she returned to ECA and obtained her Master’s in Health/P.E. while working in the admissions office and serving as a women’s basketball assistant coach. She was the head coach for three years before moving into the senior women’s administrative role.

The ECU Hall of Famer retired from that role in December of 2014, but still keeps close tabs on the program.

“’m at most of the home games and I think Coach McNeil is doing a great job,” the Winterville resident said. “I’m proud of being part of the process that brought the women’s game to where it is today. Being named to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor and I’m still a little in shock.”

Thompson will be inducted April 21 in Raleigh as part of a class that includes Hickory native and current Tennessee men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes, former Duke football standout Clarkston Hines, former N.C. State women’s basketball star Trudi Lacey, Kinston native and former NBA star Jerry Stackhouse and former pro golfer Curtis Strange, who played at Wake Forest.

“So many people helped me along the way and I really appreciate all of them, but Coach Titus really looked after me” Thompson said. “He took me home or made sure I had a ride every day from practice or games. There’s no telling how my life would have turned out without him.”