Sabrina Thompson isn’t afraid of honesty: When it came to picking a school, The Master’s University wasn’t immediately her first choice – nor was it her second.
Thompson, now a senior point guard for the Mustangs, went to high school a short drive from TMU’s campus at Valencia High and more than one of her relatives had played basketball there.
She did not want to build on someone else’s legacy, especially not in her own backyard.
“I wanted to go write my own story,” she says.
So, Thompson visited other schools and explored her options. She found that the Lord closed several doors. And after visiting Master’s and meeting the women’s basketball team, she changed her mind.
She was sold.
“I knew the team was different from the first moment I met them,” says Thompson, who turned down other scholarship offers to play at Master’s. “The culture, the motivation and the competitiveness all had the Lord stamped all over it, and I craved to be a part of it.”
Good thing, too, because Thompson has developed into a poised floor general for the Mustangs, playing a critical role this season in TMU’s best-ever start, 18-0, and pursuit of a second consecutive Golden State Athletic Conference title.
Master’s will travel to Santa Barbara on Saturday for a first-place showdown at Westmont College. Both teams are 6-0 in conference play.
Thompson, who scored 11 points in TMU’s comeback win over Menlo College on Saturday, is averaging a career-high 7.7 points per game. But head coach Dan Waldeck says a stat sheet can’t begin to define the senior’s value.
“She’s been such a consistent presence for us,” says Waldeck, “that I don’t think you can quantify her day-to-day impact on our overall success.”
When Waldeck recruited Thompson out of Valencia, where she was a four-year starter and part of four Foothill League championship teams, it was again something intangible that drew his attention.
“I knew she had a high basketball IQ, but the fire she played with set her apart,” he says.
Thompson was plenty familiar with Master’s. Her father, Andy, compiled 235 assists for TMU in 1993-94 – eighth-most by a Mustang in a season. And her cousin Olivia was a former Mustang women’s basketball player.
Seeking to establish her own narrative, Thompson looked at schools outside the Santa Clarita Valley. But for one reason or another, several options didn’t pan out. Her final campus visit was to Master’s.
“By the time my visit was over, I knew I needed to be here,” she says. “… It was an overwhelming blessing and the clear will of the Lord for me to be here.”
Thompson became a full-time starter at Master’s as a sophomore, averaging 7.7 points and three assists. Then, as a junior, she helped lead the Mustangs to the first GSAC regular-season title in program history. Her best moment came in the biggest game: She scored 12 points, making both of her three-point attempts, in TMU’s NAIA national quarterfinal game, a 60-55 loss to eventual national champion Montana Western.
The performance spoke to Thompson’s poise, an aspect of her game that has further crystalized during her final season.
Master’s guard Hannah Ostrom credits Thompson with controlling the team’s pace on offense, a skill that was on full display last month when TMU hosted an Olivet Nazarene team that attempted to pressure the Mustangs into mistakes.
“She’s a floor general for our team,” Ostrom says, “and she knows when we need to push the pace, slow it down or what plays we need to run.”
Thompson believes her role changes from game to game. Most days her job is to feed the Mustangs’ bevy of offensive weapons, but other times she needs to score, pulling up for a steady dose of her signature midrange jumpers or driving to the rim.
“I have so many scoring threats at my disposal as a point guard so it’s not often that we struggle to score,” says Thompson, who is currently seventh in career assists at TMU with 346. “But especially in games when our scorers are really being targeted by the other team, it allows me to be more aggressive, and the more aggressive I am, the more open they become to score, which is what I want.”
At the other end of the floor, Thompson is often at the top of TMU’s vaunted zone defense, scrambling from side-to-side and pressuring opponents into rushed decisions. She still displays the fire Waldeck saw in her as a high schooler.
“She’s one of the biggest competitors I know,” says Master’s forward Anika Neuman. “Nothing will stop her and I love that.”
As of Monday, the Mustangs were third in NAIA Division 1 in scoring defense (52.5 points per game), and Thompson had 18 steals, one of eight Master’s players with at least 10.
“I don’t think I knew how great a defender she’d become,” Waldeck says. “Sabrina’s been a perfect fit for our changing defensive systems because of how relentless she is.”
Thompson has also been a perfect fit for the Mustangs’ team culture.
“She intentionally pursues teammates and has a softness in her care of others that has grown immensely over the last couple years,” Waldeck says.
The environment at TMU, where such pursuits are encouraged, is one reason Thompson is glad she chose Master’s, even if it was just down the road. She says the school has been the right fit because of the spiritual growth she’s experienced on and off the court.
“Most importantly, my love for my God has grown deeper with the help of the incredible influences and resources around me,” she says.
For more information on Master’s Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.