September 17, 2019, the day that changed Nonkon Thompson’s life forever. The lefty out of Akwesasne, NY had declared early for the 2019 National Lacrosse League Draft following a standout summer playing all over the floor, splitting time between Junior A and B, respectively.
“That night was honestly shocking for me because I didn’t really know if I was even going to get drafted because of my young age,” Thompson said. “I fell asleep, and my roommate was watching the draft. He woke me up and said, ‘Hey, you just got drafted.’”
Thompson had to wait until the third round to hear his name called, but he’d have his dream become a reality, as the Halifax Thunderbirds selected him with the 38th overall pick.
He knew that Halifax was a fairly new organization, but somewhat familiar to him as a number of his Iroquois teammates and Curt Styres – the GM for Iroquois Nationals – were all on the Thunderbirds. He received a text from Thunderbirds captain Cody Jamieson that night congratulating him, and from that point forward, he knew it’d be a perfect fit.
Fast forward three years, and the youngster has shown that he has a high ceiling and the ability to be a multi-faceted star. Glimpses of that potential had shown through during his time in Junior lacrosse.
Thompson spent 2016-2018 solely in Junior B with Akwesasne, where he was able to post nine goals and 17 points combined in 13 games over two summers. He took a giant step during the 2018 season, scoring nine times while adding 13 assists in transition over 15 games. Thompson also appeared in the World Junior Lacrosse Championship and took home a silver medal with the Iroquois Nationals that summer.
He’d don the “C” for Akwesasne in 2019, appearing in 20 contests for the team. He’d set a career-high with 19 assists and 26 points, while helping his squad make a run at a Founders Cup berth. That run, unfortunately, would come up just short, as they’d lose the Ontario Final to the Six Nations Rebels. However, Thompson was also able to showcase himself, in a small sample, with the Junior A Six Nations Arrows.
After declaring, it was the NLL combine that got 'Noonzy' on the radar of Thunderbirds coaching staff, particularly head coach, Mike Accursi.
“We obviously knew he was a good player and that he was good in Junior B. You obviously have thoughts on whether that is going to translate to Junior A, Senior A, and pro. Then we saw him at the combine, and he was the best player on the floor,” Accursi said of Thompson. “Once we got further into the process, we knew we wanted to get him as quickly as we could.”
As a teenager, Thompson showed that his ability was well beyond his years, as he suited up in 10 games for a strong Thunderbirds team. Unfortunately, his rookie campaign was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, the long off-season provided opportunities for Thompson.
His development continued this past summer, with Thompson playing in both the Ontario Junior Lacrosse League with the Arrows and in Major Series Lacrosse with the Six Nations Chiefs. He was arguably the best defender in the abbreviated Junior A tournament, and he was nominated as a West Division All-Star. He was also able to get extended reps against older competition during his short stint playing in the MSL Classic.
Thompson said that he had his stick in his hands everyday from when COVID initially hit, so he was more than ready to play in multiple leagues over a month-long span.
The Thunderbirds also showed their faith in the 22-year-old by signing him to a three-year contract extension.
“It was so exciting to hear that, because this sport is what I love to do,” Thompson said. “I want to be the best player to come out of Akwesasne, and that has been my goal since I was a young kid. Having the organization commit to me like that is a huge step in reaching my goals.”
The competition in camp was as high as ever for the Thunderbirds, as two drafts worth of prospects and multiple off-season additions made for hard battles for roster spots. Thompson made the team out of camp, but in the Thunderbirds’ season opener, he found himself as a healthy scratch.
After that game, Thompson received a call from Accursi. He was going to be in the lineup for the team’s second game of the year against Toronto. But he’d be running out of the front door as a forward.
“I was extremely nervous after that call,” Thompson said. “But Cody was my roommate, and he told me that I’ve played this game forever. He talked me through just shooting my shot and playing my game. It’s a simple game when you don’t overthink it, and that is what helped me get through that night.”
Jamieson was a late scratch from the opener, leaving the Thunderbirds short a left-handed forward. With Thompson in the lineup, he served multiple purposes. Against the Rock, he was able to both provide punch up front, setting picks and snapping the ball around to the other forwards. But he was also utilized to stop Toronto’s reverse transition and stay on to play defensive possessions after halting their chances on the run.
“I think he’s just a Swiss-Army Knife who can play both ends of the floor,” Accursi said. “If you need somebody banging out of the front door on the left side, you can put him up there and we know we’re not going to skip a beat. Same thing goes for the back gate. He’s a big, physical presence out the back as well. It’s great to have players like that, and those guys come few and far between.
“... I think Noonzy needs to be a part of that conversation. He’s played defence for a long time. But for how well he moved and shot up on the front end, I think he’s a guy that can be like Kiel Matisz who can get you 15 to 20 goals and be a huge part of the defence.”
Thompson tied a perfect bow on his first appearance of the year, potting the game-sealing goal on a beautiful diving effort on the crease. It was also the first goal of his career.
With that, Thompson earned his first goal as a Thunderbird with many more to come. He knows the work that he needs to do in order to achieve his dreams. From growing up watching some of the best Indigenous lacrosse players to becoming one is what has pushed Thompson through these last few years of uncertainty.
“I didn’t know what to expect going into (the NLL). That jump from playing teenagers to playing fully grown men was a huge step for me,” Thompson said. “My goal is just to progress and do whatever it takes to help the team win. The only goal I have right now is to stay in the lineup and to win a championship.”