For longtime basketball fans in Topeka, the name Topeka Sizzlers should be familiar. The Sizzlers competed in the Continental Basketball Association from 1986-1990, with the most famous player from the team being University of Kansas standout Calvin Thompson. The Sizzlers have returned this season, now competing in the American Basketball Association (ABA) with Thompson serving as General Manager and Head Coach.
Thompson, captain of what many consider to be the best team in Jayhawk history, the ”Final Four” team in 1986, competed in European professional basketball for seven years following his time playing for the Topeka Sizzlers. His love for the game drove him to join with a group of investors to start a new semi-professional team.
“I am excited to be back in Topeka, now as a part of the ABA with the red, white and blue balls,” Thompson said.
Thompson said it’s his love of the game that made him come back to Topeka.
“We are dedicated to building a great fan base here in Topeka,” Thompson says. “Our aim is to provide top notch entertainment, contribute to many local nonprofit organizations, and give the city a winning program the community will be proud to support.”
So far, the team is living up to its goal as the undefeated Sizzlers are putting up big wins over teams from throughout the country. As of this writing, the team has a 9-0 record and are averaging nearly 156 points per game. Sizzlers players are all post-collegiate players. While many are from this area, including Topekans Jordan Newby and Mekan Moss, others hail from as far away as Minnesota.
As coach and co-owner, Thompson feels right at home here in Topeka and is proud to bring semi-professional basketball back to the Capital City. Basketball fans in this area have many great memories of Thompson’s own playing days.
Thompson was a four-year starter at KU and set KU’s record for most consecutive free throws with 33 in a row, which stood for 21 years. Thompson finished his career tied for 1st for games started and games played in a season, 3rd in minutes played, 4th in scoring, 5th in assists, 7th in steals, 13th in blocks and 19th in rebounds.
Thompson played two seasons with the Topeka Sizzlers after brief stints in camp with the Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs. In his rookie season with the Sizzlers, he averaged 21 points per game and was named CBA Rookie Runner-Up of the Year. Thompson later joined professional teams in Europe, playing in France for two years and Israel for five years.
After his playing days, Thompson started a youth program in his home town of Kansas City named Helping Out Other People (HOOP). He was also the Head Coach of the KC Mustangs, a women’s professional basketball team, in 1995 and coached the KC Tornados of the North American Premier Basketball league. The combination of HOOP and his many years of playing and coaching basketball is the driving force that keeps Thompson in the game today.
When not on the road, the Topeka Sizzlers play their home games at multiple venues around the Topeka area. The team has played at Washburn Rural High School, Topeka West High School and Topeka Collegiate. The team’s schedule of upcoming games, as well as the ability to purchase tickets, is available on its website, TopekaSizzlers.org.
- Kevin Doel for MetroVoiceNews.com