When Schools like North Carolina and Virginia come to watch you play, you tend to pay attention...as does Princeton. But there have been UConn Basketball greats in the past that have decided to stay local and have had great careers. Middletown's Cornelius Thompson is one of them and he became a UConn Legend.
Thompson started playing basketball in Middle School as he was tall. And by the time he reached Middletown High, he was 6-5. After five games on the Freshman Team, he played Varsity for his remaining time as a Dragon...Where during his Sophomore, Junior and Senior Years, the teams he played for simply, didn't lose...76 of a state record 80 game win streak that still stands today. Three Consecutive CIAC Class M State Championships between 1976 (d Ellington), 1977 (d Pulaski/NB) and 1978 (d St Joseph's). During his time at Middletown, legendary coach Dean Smith from North Carolina and Dee Rowe from UConn would be regulars along with many other coaches. His final four choices were UNC, Virginia, Princetown and UConn, with Princeton being the top choice. However, scholarships weren't offered at Princeton, so Thompson chose to stay home and be a Husky.....And the timing couldn't be better.
With fellow recruit Mike McCay of Bridgeport added to the mix, their Freshman Year was tremendous. As Thompson, with McKay, along with Senior's Jeff Carr and Randy LaVigne, went 21-8 and won the ECAC New England Championship to earn an NCAA Tournament bid....That included a late season classic game at the New Haven Coliseum against who many regarded was the Top Team in New England, in Rhode Island. Featuring New Haven Native Sly Williams...An 80-75 OT win where Thompson accounted for 30 pts and 12 rebounds that nailed down a three seed in Providence. After blowing out Boston College, URI again awaited...The defense held URI to 50 points while winning 58-50. Thompson accounting for 16pts and 11 boards to earn MVP Honors..However the Louie and Bowie Show from Syracuse too much to overcome in the NCAA's in Providence the following week. Thompson averaged 19 pts and 11 boards in year one..
The 1979-80 season would still see a lot of "regional" opponents, but it was also the first year of a new league, The Big East. Where teams only played each other once that year. A 3-3 record and 20-9 overall where Corny averaged 16p-9r overall...17-9 in Big East play...And the Huskies won it's first Big East Tournament Game, defeating before losing to Syracuse in the Semi's, where Thompson didn't score in the first 25 minutes as he was battling thru a back injury. The season ended a week later losing to St Peters in the NIT...Thompson a second team, all Big East selection
The 80-81' Team saw Chuck Aleksinas join the team from Kentucky as a transfer. The 6-11 Litchfield native was a perfect compliment to Thompson and his 6-8, 225lb frame. And the Huskies came out fast, an 11-0 start that included a big win over Syracuse in New Haven to vault UConn into the Top 20 in early January. The first New England Team ranked since Holy Cross in 1977. That ranking was short lived however when BC beat UConn in Chestnut Hill 58-57. Thompson again led the Huskies in scoring and rebounding (15p-8r) while shooting 50% in another 20-9 season. Where after a loss to Villanova in the Big East Tournament, again played in the NIT. The Huskies won at USF before falling to Minnesota in Hartford. A team that featured twin towers in Randy Brewer and Kevin McHale (Yes, THAT Kevin McHale) Thompson named a First Team Conference Selection with two other Connecticut Natives, John Bagley (BC/New Haven) and Villanova's John Pinnone (So Catholic/Htfd)..
The 1981-82 Senior Year was another productive one for Thompson. 15pts and 9 rpg both in league and overall. Where UConn went a disappointing 17-11 and 7-7 in the League after a 14-3 start, to finish mid pack with the Big East Tournament set for the Hartford Civic Center. The last BET not held at Madison Square Garden. And a rough end to the campaign included a tough loss in Hartford thanks to a last second jumper by Freshman Chris Mullin as St John's beat UConn for a third consecutive time 54-52....Only to lose to Dayton in Overtime in the NIT to put an end to Thompson's career at UConn. Thompson again a First Team All Big East Selection with Bagley and Pinone. Corny remains in the top 10 in both points (1,810) and rebounds (1,017) where he's ranked 6th in both categories.
Thompson's NBA Career was short lived however, following his 4th round selection by Dallas in 1982, Corny suffered a serious knee injury and was released in the Summer of 1983...He got healthy and didn't give up on the game, taking his game to Europe. First stop, six years in Italy, Pallacanestro Varese....then six more in Spain with Joventut Badalona, where his teams between 1990 and 1994 flourished. Reaching the European Cup Final in 1992 and winning it all in 1994 where he made the game winning three pointer in the Title Game against Olympiacos.
Following his retirement, he tried the restaurant business, was an Assistant Coach for the CBA's CT Pride that won a Championship in 1999. At last check, Thompson was involved in a management spot with LAZ Parking and roots for UConn Basketball to this day. Signaling the 1999 Men's Title as a big part of his life, feeling he's a part of the process. Once upon a time, Corny Thompson played a big role in UConn Basketball's Transition to the Big East, where he was among the best, and a UConn Legend...