Submitted Kailyn Brooks Thompson was a three-year starter at point guard for Carson-Newman University.

Submitted

Kailyn Brooks Thompson was a three-year starter at point guard for Carson-Newman University.

Kailyn Brooks Thompson didn't have any intention of coaching basketball this season.

However, she can't seem to get away from the sport.

Entering her second year at Portland's J.W. Wiseman Elementary School, Thompson simply planned to serve as a physical education instructor and possibly do some basketball lessons in her spare time.

"When I was in high school, I wasn't sure if I wanted to play in college," Thompson said. "I got to my senior year and said, 'I love it. I just can't live without it.' It was the same way graduating from college. I just couldn't give it up."

Thompson was recently hired as a teacher and the assistant girls basketball coach at Macon County High School.

"Coach (Larry) White actually contacted me," Thompson said. "He called and asked if we could sit down and meet on a Tuesday. I think we met on a Thursday. He just laid it all out there. He told me I'd have the opportunity to be an assistant and teach PE (physical education).

"I thought about it,

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talked to my parents about it, talked to my husband about it and made many phone calls. I knew in the end that I'd end up taking it, because this was kind of both of my passions combined into one job. I couldn't not give it a try. Even though I love where I was coming from, this is my dream job I believe."

Thompson's other passion is teaching.

"I just like kids in general," Thompson said. "I pride myself in being an example and being a role model, someone they can lean on and talk to and confide in outside of their homes."

She's a welcome addition to the athletic staff.

"We're very fortunate to be able to get Kailyn back," Macon County High athletic director Beverly Shoulders said. "She's coming home, and she's excited about being here.

"The knowledge she has about the game that she will bring to this team and these girls will be invaluable."

Shoulders remembers Thompson as a player.

"In high school, she was so mature for her age," Shoulders said. "She was so focused and so driven. I'm excited to have her back to help coach these girls."

Tigerette head coach Larry White had his sights set on Thompson after assistant coach Layce Colter resigned in early July.

"She's the only person I interviewed," White said. "She was my choice.

"She's going to fit like a glove. She has a really good knowledge of the game, and she's respected in the community. She's fit in great so far."

Macon County is coming off of a season in which the program finished as the Class AA state runner-up for the third time, falling to Upperman in overtime on Akira Levy's buzzer-beater in the state championship game.

The program's first two state runner-up seasons came with Thompson on the court, in 2011 and 2013.

"It's so exciting," Thompson said. "It's drawing back to having a little bit of a relationship with these girls already. It's really neat that we get to share in that state-tournament experience.

"It's exciting to step into this and know you have a chance to be as successful -- if not moreso -- than last year. It is a responsibility too, but it is exciting to bring my knowledge to it."

Though she's been away from the program since graduating from high school, Thompson has attempted to keep an eye on the progress of the program.

"I kept up with it as best I could," Thompson said. "I would call around and ask. I would ask how the girls are doing. A lot of times it was calling dad, and we talked basketball all the time.

"Being home at Christmas, I made sure I would come to the Nera White (Christmas Tournament at Macon County High). It was hard to keep up because I did have my season (as a player at Carson-Newman University) going on, but I did the best I could."

She's quickly familiarizing herself with the players.

"I wish I would have been able to go with them to camps this summer," Thompson said. "A lot of them, I either grew up with their siblings or grew up with their cousins. Jalyn (Gregory) for example, I played with her cousin, Kelsey (Gregory). Abby (Shoulders), I've worked with for a long time. Keeley Carter, I've watched her since she was little playing ball. I've known of all of them.

"Getting to spend time with them (recently) has been the most bonding we've done."

Thompson was a shooting guard in high school but transitioned to point guard at Carson-Newman. She was a three-year starter and two-time all-conference selection for the Lady Eagles.

Thompson holds the school record for made 3-pointers in a season. After averaging 13.8 points per game and 3.1 assists per game as a junior, she averaged 14.1 points per game and 3.6 assists per game as a senior, leading the Southern Athletic Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio. She was also fifth in the conference in steals.

In her career, Thompson scored 1,198 points (11th in school history) and made 206 3-pointers (third in school history).

Her coaching staff at Carson-Newman has helped to shape the coach that Thompson has become.

"It's tremendous," Thompson said of the impact of her college coaches. "Being a point guard, me and the head coach (Mike Mincey) had a great relationship. Point guards are coaches on the floor. I spend a lot of time in his office in film study. We still have conversations to this day. I grew leaps and bounds in college. I had a great relationship with all of my assistant coaches (including Ashley Tipton, Ashley Kyle and Tatum Burstrom).

"We would get in the gym and work. That's where I learned a lot my individual work with kids. It has totally shaped me into the assistant coach I hope to be."

Thompson has been giving one-on-one player instruction for several years, working with players from age 10 through high-school-aged players.

Only two seasons removed from being on the court, Thompson can relate to the daily routine of the players.

"That's a big thing," White said. "She knows the ifs, ands and buts ... and the strains of playing.

"The girls have related to her really good. It was a shock when Layce resigned, but I can't be any more pleased (with Kailyn joining the program) than I am."

Thompson added, "My assistant coaching role is up in the air. A lot of it depends on the role your head coach plays. I'm structured and have high expectations. I want to be somebody they can confide in as well. I want to be that push, that positivity, the energy in practice. Basketball is a long season. In college, we call it a grind. I want to be that spark in the grind. I want to show them how to come to practice every day, whether you have had a good day or a bad day. I want to be an ear for Coach White, putting our heads together and creating the best opportunity for these girls."

Thompson hopes to become a head coach one day.

"You always have thoughts of the future," Thompson said. "That's definitely something I can see. I don't have a lot of coaching experience. I'm definitely here to learn and grow and hopefully prepare myself for that hopefully one day.

"I think basketball will be a part of my life always in one way or another."

Thompson is enjoying the homecoming.

"The whole experience thus far has been so nostalgic," Thompson said. "Probably what stands out most ... obviously, the state tournament experiences were amazing. My relationships with my other teammates were amazing. We did things outside of basketball together. I think that bond is why we did so well on the floor.

"We had goals. All of those positive things brought us together. Game days were the best. I'm looking forward to being a part of that again. Going to summer camps, sweating in the gyms, that bonding ... all of those things stand out. Those were some of the best memories for me."