Women’s basketball coach Kristen Gillespie wasn’t expecting a Snapchat message from her three-point specialist, Mary Crompton. It was an off day. Gillespie opened the message to see a picture of the redshirt freshman at Redbird Arena in workout gear smiling proudly. The caption read:
“Just made 338 3s without missing 2 in a row.”
Gillespie couldn’t contain her pride and took to Twitter.
Just got this snap on our day off. @mcrompton23 is one of the hardest working players that I have ever ever been around. Can never fault a player who gives their all and works tirelessly on their craft! 338-381…88.7% 😳😳 pic.twitter.com/ezmwvlxwrC
— Kristen Gillespie (@CoachKGillespie) January 20, 2020
It was just another day for Crompton, an Iowa City native who has turned her intelligence, work ethic, and attention to detail into a weapon for the Redbirds. On February 20 she set the Illinois State single-season record for three-pointers made by a freshman during an overtime win against Northern Iowa. She followed her record-setting night by hitting a personal-best six threes on February 22 against Drake.
Evidence of her precision can be found as far back as the third grade when she won an Iowa state championship in cursive handwriting.
“My teacher made us aware of a cursive writing contest and told me she thought I would do well,” Crompton said. “She was letting me know as it moved on how I was progressing. ‘Hey, you just won locals in cursive handwriting.’ ‘You just won regionals.’ I ended up winning state. I didn’t win nationals, but it is still a fun fact I like to share.”
Crompton discovered her love of basketball around the time she was winning penmanship contests. Her father saw a newspaper clip about the Elks Hoop Shoot free-throw shooting contest and asked if she was interested.
“It became a bonding experience with my dad. We would go out and shoot almost every night,” Crompton said. “I just bought in the whole idea of practicing to get results.”
Crompton ended up making it to the Hoop Shoot National Finals twice during grade school. By the time she was in high school, she was one of the best shooters in Iowa. She led Regina High School to a 51–2 record over the course of two seasons while shooting 46 percent from three-point distance. She did all of this while playing for All Iowa Attack, one of the top Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) teams in the nation, with future Redbird teammate Lexy Koudelka. Crompton, who stands at 5 feet 8 inches tall, was competing against players destined to play in the highest levels of the sport and more than holding her own.
Gillespie noticed Crompton’s performances and recruited her as part of the 2018–2019 class. Unfortunately, Crompton’s promising freshman season was cut short by a serious knee injury in the fifth game.
“It was definitely hard to grasp at first,” she said. “It was really disappointing because I had gone through all of the offseason training and was really excited for the year.”
Crompton was determined to make the most out of a bad situation. When not rehabbing her injury, she watched film of the other teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, learned from seniors on the team, and improved her off-court leadership skills.
“She was such a great teammate through it all,” Gillespie said. “Basketball is such a safe haven for her. She is incredibly intelligent and works hard in the classroom, but this is where she kind of goes and finds peace. And she couldn’t do that for almost eight months.”
Fully healed from her injury, Crompton is happy to be doing what she loves, taking particular joy in preparing for opponents. She works extensively with teammates and coaches to run through a series of self-directed drills designed to simulate the kinds of shots she will need to take and make during games.
“Shooting has become my niche because it is something I can devote all of my time to and get better at,” she said. “I enjoy getting into the gym and shooting, finding different shooting routines and different drills.”
Gillespie said Crompton’s work ethic separates her from other players she has coached. “As a coach you will come to the gym and you will see your kids are getting ‘extra work’ and they are putting up a few shots, kind of talking. But when Mary comes in, she has a set agenda.”
Crompton is just as impressive in the classroom. She has earned a perfect GPA as a biology major and a chemistry minor. Even though she is only in her second year at Illinois State, she already has the credit hours of a junior and plans to graduate in 2021. She plans to stay at Illinois State to pursue her master’s degree while finishing her athletic eligibility.
“Mary Crompton is the only kid I know who would take organic chemistry as an elective, for fun,” Gillespie said.
"They keep setting her up and she keeps answering the call." 👊@mcrompton23 has shot over 70% from behind the arc and combined for 🔟 3-pointers in the last two games 😱#BackTheBirds // #TogetherWeWill pic.twitter.com/aKGr57x7MZ
— Illinois State WBB (@RedbirdWBB) December 20, 2019