It took some time, but 2016 Thunder Mountain High School graduate Ava Tompkins is now acclimated to playing NCAA Division III basketball.
The Wesleyan University point guard stepped into the starting lineup last season, and the Cardinals finished the year 17-8 and made it to the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) semifinals.
Tompkins spoke to the Empire on Friday from Chatham, Massachusetts on all her experience on and off the court at the Wesleyan. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Juneau Empire: When you’re thrust into the starting role like that I imagine it’s probably a little scary. What were those first couple games like when you were having to run the show?
Ava Tompkins: I struggled confidence-wise my freshman year and even going into my sophomore year because like I said I had such a different role when I got to college. Senior year of high school we weren’t really good so it kind of came down to what I could do. So when I got to start again it boosted my confidence just mentally because that was something I was used to in high school and throughout most of my basketball career. … It allowed me to play my game with a lot more confidence and I think that we were a lot more successful with the way that I was playing post-starting than I was pre-starting.
Empire: Have you felt like now that you’ve stuck with it for two years your relationship with the coach and your teammates has set you up for really good junior and senior years?
Tompkins: I’m absolutely excited about this upcoming season. My teammates are my best friends on campus, I live with two of them. Our team chemistry my freshman year wasn’t great, we had some issues, but this past season we worked together well off and on the court.
Tompkins: How’s it been balancing school and being an NCAA athlete?
Empire: My freshman year was definitely tough, but like I tell a lot of people, I find it easier for me to stay up on my school work and stay up on what I have to do when I’m in season because we’re on such a tight, structured schedule. So when I’m not in season, it becomes a little harder for me to discipline myself and whatnot. … I’m a neuroscience and behavior major and I’m finally getting into the more interesting topics and interesting classes. So it’s easier to study when you like what you’re studying.
Empire: What have you found you’ve really liked about your field of study?
Tompkins: I think the coolest thing about it is we don’t really know much about it. So it’s such a wide-open field at this point whether it’s research or medicine or anything. I think it’s so cool that I can learn something in November and that be the rule of thumb and then come April someone’s discovered that that’s no longer true. I think the brain is so cool.