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Look At Them Now: Klay Thompson

2/10/2011
Klay Thompson was a standout at Santa Margarita High before blossoming into one of the Pac-10's top players. Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire

Like father, like son?

Well, not just yet.

If, however, the past is any indication of what the future might have in store for Klay Thompson, the Santa Margarita High graduate who has emerged as a budding star at Washington State could possibly end up following in the footsteps of the family's patriarch.

His dad, mind you, is none other than Mychal Thompson.

Yes, the same Mychal Thompson who was the top pick in the 1978 NBA draft and enjoyed a rather successful 12-year professional career, including a stint with the Los Angeles Lakers for five seasons during the late 1980s and early '90s.

Make no mistake, the younger Thompson appears to be heading in the right direction. The 6-foot-6 junior leads the Pac-10 Conference in scoring, averaging 21.2 points for the Cougars (16-7 overall), who host Stanford on Thursday at 7 p.m.

“I have high aspirations for Klay,'' his father said this week. “My son has all the talent in the world, I tell him that all the time. He can be an NBA player some day. It's all about making the most of your opportunities and he understands that.''

Klay Thompson did not become a sensation overnight.

He made a name for himself as a freshman when he started 33 games at Washington State. Thompson led the team in 3-point field goal percentage (.412) and free-throw percentage (.902). He was also third in scoring (12.5 points per game).

As a sophomore, Thompson took the next step. He finished third in the conference scoring race (19.6 a night) behind Landry Fields and Quincy Pondexter, both of whom have since moved on and are playing for the New York Knicks and New Orleans Hornets, respectively.

The fact Thompson's game continues to develop at such a rapid rate might come as a surprise to some considering he was a bit of a late bloomer at Santa Margarita.

He was a three-year starter for the Eagles, and during his senior season, he guided his teammates to a 30-5 record and CIF Division III state title. Nevertheless, Division I colleges seemed to have questions about whether Thompson could make an impact at the next level.

“I guess the scouts didn't see him as one of those blue-chip type of prospects, but we always knew Klay was an undeniable talent. He had a good feel for the game and had that little something extra the others players didn't possess,'' Santa Margarita coach Jerry DeBusk said.

In 2008, ESPNU ranked Thompson as the nation's No. 11 small forward in his class. He was rated the nation's No. 53 recruit overall. But at the time, the consensus was that Los Angeles natives and current NBA contributors such as Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday and DeMar DeRozan were the premier prep players in the Southland.

Nevertheless, Michigan and Notre Dame made a late push for Thompson.

Pepperdine was in the mix, as well. Believe it or not, the Waves had an outside chance of securing a pledge from him because his older brother, Mychel Thompson, was on the team.

His mind was already made up though. Washington State, ultimately, proved to be the best fit for Klay.

“I have seen a number of players come and go over the years, but I would be surprised, I would be truly flabbergasted if Klay did not make it in the NBA,'' DeBusk said.

Whether Thompson does or not, remains to be seen.

We know this much for certain: he has the pedigree.

Cupboard far from bare for Beavers

After taking a quick glance at the Oregon State roster, it's obvious Beavers coach Craig Robinson and his staff did their recruiting homework. Doing a through job of scouting the abundance of talent in Southern California has paid off.

Landing commitments from Omari Johnson (Los Angeles Dorsey HS), Calvin Hayes (Woodland Hills Taft HS), Joe Burton (Hemet West Valley HS) and Roberto Nelson (Santa Barbara HS) over the last couple of years not only proved to be somewhat of a coup for Robinson & Co., but the additions have also provided Oregon State with some much-needed depth this season.

As the Beavers (9-13 overall) head into a pair of conference games later tonight at USC and Saturday afternoon at UCLA, each former regional standout ranks among the team leaders in at least one per game statistical category: Johnson in rebounds (6.4), Haynes in minutes (25.1), Burton in field goal percentage (.500) and Nelson in free-throw percentage (.824).

Adjustments going well for Polee Jr.

By most accounts, skepticism outweighed optimism when Dwayne Polee Jr. announced his intentions of signing with St. John's last year, in early May. It was thought that playing in the traditionally tough Big East Conference might be a bit too much for him to handle.

Turns out, the Los Angeles Westchester product is doing just fine in his first season with the Red Storm (13-9 overall) under the guidance of former UCLA coach Steve Lavin. The freshman has started 16 of 22 games and is averaging about 16 minutes per game.

Polee Jr. made his long-awaited return to SoCal on Feb. 5 when St. John's lost at UCLA, 66-59. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 19 minutes. After Thursday night's home game against Connecticut, next up for Polee Jr. and the Red Storm is another conference game on the road against Cincinnati on Sunday.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.