In this February 2016 photo, Thunder Mountain's Ava Tompkins looks to drive against Ketchikans' Courtney Kemble, front, and Alexis Biggerstaff, back, during a game at TMHS. Tompkins has signed to play college basketball at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

In this February 2016 photo, Thunder Mountain's Ava Tompkins looks to drive against Ketchikans' Courtney Kemble, front, and Alexis Biggerstaff, back, during a game at TMHS. Tompkins has signed to play college basketball at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Tompkins to play at NCAA III Wesleyan

At three months old, Ava Tompkins sponged up the game from her father’s chest as he hollered at high school players as a coach in Australia.

At three years old she knew what a jump stop was and could deliver a chest pass. As a middle schooler she led her coed Hoop Rats community team as the only point guard who could break a full-court press. Then, as a senior this year, she became only the third player to score over 1,000 career points for the Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team.

Tompkins has always been a precocious basketball player, so it’s no surprise she committed to Wesleyan University as an early decision recruit, deciding to play for the Connecticut college in December. Wesleyan is a NCAA III school competing in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.

“I have family on the East Coast, so I have been going for eight summers now. … I always knew I wanted to go to an East Coast school because of the education,” Tompkins said of her decision-making process. “Academics are more important to me than athletics, so I was looking for somewhere I could play on the East Coast that had great academics.”

A four-year science student at TMHS, Tompkins plans to study neuroscience in college.

“Science is just really interesting to me,” she said. “I took psychology and now I’m in sociology and I like both. Neuroscience is not only psychology, it’s also the science of the brain, so it’s a bit like psychology but it goes beyond that.”

The Tompkins are rooted in basketball. Ava will become the third among her cousins to move on to the next level, with her Hoop Rats teammates Guy Bean and Kaleb Tompkins committing to Grays Harbor College in Washington and Warner Pacific University in Portland, respectively.

“I always wanted to be better than them,” Ava said of growing up playing with her boy cousins. “I used to beat Kaleb one on one up until about eighth grade, and then he started growing and I just couldn’t score on him anymore. It was definitely a different kind of atmosphere growing up playing with my boy cousins. I played with boys up until my freshman year, so it gave me a different perspective.

“There hasn’t been a day really where I haven’t had basketball in my life,” she continued. “… I was shooting and dribbling since I was three years old.”

Guy Tompkins, Ava’s father, coached her Hoop Rats team, driving around town every Sunday to pick up players who didn’t have access to transportation or the money for gym time. Ava’s father and mother, Maggie Ferguson, are moving with her to Connecticut, where her mother has family.

Guy Tompkins remembers his daughter as the smartest basketball player on their youth squad.

“She was our team captain, she ran the show and was the smartest player on the court,” he said.

Ava Tompkins has always played with a fire for competition. During one Hoop Rats game down south, her father had to sit her to find room for a new player on the team.

“Ava said, ‘Dad, what are you doing?,’” her father recalled. “I said, ‘Ava, if I sit Guy, Kaleb, Treyson or one of these other boys, they’re not going to recover from it. You understand how good you are, and you know I am sitting you down so we don’t have to hurt one of their feelings, and I guarantee you two or three minutes into the game one of these boys is going to run over and ask me to put you in the game.’ … We went down 14 points because nobody knew how to deal with the full-court press. Sure enough both Guy and Kaleb came running over about three minutes into the game and asked me to put Ava in.”

Falcons head coach Tanya Nizich has huge holes to fill in her lineup with Ava moving on.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” Nizich said, “Ava played every game since her freshman year like it was her last time on the court. She gives it her absolute all, she has a burning fire for competition and I’ve enjoyed being a part, coaching and watching her play. … Best advice I could give Ava is set high goals and strive to be the best at everything and don’t let anything ever stand in your way and you will succeed far in life.”

She continued: “TM will miss you, your teammates will miss you and coach will miss you.”

In this January 2016 photo, Thunder Mountain's Ava Tompkins drives against Sitka's Alex Kirby, left, and Hailey Denkinger during a game at TMHS. Tompkins has signed to play college basketball at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

In this January 2016 photo, Thunder Mountain’s Ava Tompkins drives against Sitka’s Alex Kirby, left, and Hailey Denkinger during a game at TMHS. Tompkins has signed to play college basketball at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Tompkins to play at NCAA III Wesleyan

In this January 2016 photo, Thunder Mountain’s Ava Tompkins drives against Sitka’s Alex Kirby, left, and Hailey Denkinger during a game at TMHS. Tompkins has signed to play college basketball at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.