WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WTHR) — Basketball has always bonded brothers PJ and Isaiah Thompson. Four years apart, PJ was the one Isiah looked up to as a kid.
“I wanted to do what he did, watching him grow up like how he did it in high school,” Isaiah said.
PJ remembers how they used to push each other.
“Me always wanting him to be better than me be cause he looked up to me,” PJ said. “I knew I wanted to be a good big brother but I wanted him to be better, you know? Don’t settle. Don’t always do what I do”
PJ had a great career at Purdue, helping the Boilermakers to four straight NCAA tournaments. While he played, Isaiah watched – both as a brother and as a recruit.
So much for not always doing what his big brother did. Isiah decided to follow in PJ’s footsteps to West Lafayette when it came time for him to make a college decision.
“Obviously when I see him going through it for 4 years, I’m watching from afar. Just the vibes I got here. I was so comfortable just walking around like I’d be with him and you’d have fans come up and tell him great game and can I get a picture? It just got to me,” Isaiah said. “When he was here, his teammates welcomed me with open arms and the coaching staff I feel like I had a really great relationship with them while I was getting recruited.“
At the time Isaiah committed, PJ was overseas playing professionally in Denmark. Little did he know he’d have the opportunity to join his brother back on campus. PJ got a call from head coach Matt Painter last spring, asking him to return as a graduate assistant.
“It was tough because I didn’t want to disrupt stuff he was gonna go through but Painter said it’s more beneficial to have you,” PJ recalls. “Once I went around and talked to everyone I had to talk to I went to him last. If he told me he didn’t want me back because it might be too much pressure I wasnt gonna do it. I would've kept playing. But once I got the okay from him I told coach painter and I’m excited to be back.”
So PJ gave up his playing career to now roam the sideline in a suit and he has a front row seat as Isaiah figures it out as a freshman. Isaiah has become a regular part of Purdue’s rotation, averaging 5.5 points per game.
Now the question is, which Thompson will go down as the best Boilermaker?
“He may not say it but he wants to be the best,” PJ says with a smile. “He’s stayed the course and gotten better. He’s having a good freshman year for us and I only see him getting better. So I can definitely say he’s gonna have the better career here and I’m happy, I’m happy to say that.”