Shaq Thompson, Athlete
Grant Union Pacers
Shaq became the 2nd Golden Bears verbal commit in the Class of 2012 during his Junior Day visit :
"I'm a Bear," Thompson said. "I've always wanted to go to Cal ever since my brother Syd'Quan played there. I'm close to so many of the players and coaches and then when my boys from Grant last year, Tiny [Viliami Moala] and Puka [Lopa] signed with Cal, I knew I was next. We had made a pact that we would all stay home and play together and it feels great to get this out of the way now [$2]."
Other than getting his commitment off his chest, Thompson enjoyed himself at the hoops game which saw the Bears whoop rival Stanford, 74-55. He said that one of the highlights of the visit was, in fact, the food.
"I think it's just because I was hungry," Thompson laughed. "But they had real good food. But really, it was just meeting everybody and my future teammates. It was just a good day."
Thompson is regarded as one of the top athletes in the state of California, and will likely end up playing somewhere in the defensive backfield, probably at safety .
Not so fast. The senior-to-be, one of the region's all-time electrifying recruits, has scholarship offers from across the country. Grant coach Mike Alberghini said Monday that Thompson's plans will become clear in the coming days. Cal could be a great fit, like it was for older brother/idol Syd, but teenagers are impulsive. It's hard to say no to golden on-the-spot offers.
If Shaq Thompson lands at Cal, he'd be in the group of top skill players to go there – ever. Davis High runner Marc Hicks, deemed by Penn State coach Joe Paterno in the mid-1980s to be the best back he'd seen in years – was a stunner recruit for Joe Kapp. Cal coach Jeff Tedford in recent years nabbed Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson and Jahvid Best, all NFL players. Shaq is that sort of outrageous talent .
Perhaps it isn't over until National Signing Day. Coach Tedford has to feel confident about getting Shaq's LOI though. Tiny and Puka are going to be Golden Bears. Syd was one of the most popular and skilled players during his career at Cal, shutting down half of a football field by himself. I have even run into the Thompsons at games and witnessed them enjoying themselves and sharing their love for Cal. Personally, I really don't want to see Shaq wear any other colors besides Blue & Gold.
Joe Davidson, sports reporter for the Sacramento Bee, has graciously answered CGB's questions about Shaq. Thank you Joe for helping us Cal fans out! Make sure you follow Joe @ SacBee, Preps Plus, and Twitter for his excellent storytelling.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, what's your overall impression of Shaq?
Joe: I've been covering prep sports for The Bee since 1988 so I have seen/endured/experienced my share of top-flight athletes and Shaq is as good as they get in every regard: leader, young man, student, athlete, wow-factor fun player. Talent wise, he blows me away – blows all of us away, really – with incredible vision, acceleration and burst to the end zone. Some think he's a better prospect as a receiver – he's still growing, and could be 6-foot-4 next season – or a defensive back. I especially like him as a runner. Beautiful to watch, great stride, tough, determined.
Coach Kenwick Thompson recently spoke at booster events regarding recruiting players that fit Cal's brand & character. What do you think about Shaq's fit as a person to Cal?
Joe: Shaq comes from a great family. His mother, Patty, is equal parts no-nonsense "I'm the boss" and nurturing love. They have a great relationship, mom and son, and Shaq's idol is older brother Syd, a 4-year starter at cornerback for Cal and now with the Denver Broncos. So…like mom, like older brother, Shaq has terrific character. An example: there's a little boy in Sacramento, 8 years old, who has undergone a series of heart surgeries. His favorite player is Shaq and when Shaq found out that the family would be honored if he could visit the boy in the hospital, Shaq did, with humility and class, and then the Grant football adopted the boy as a Pacer and he joined them for pre-game talks, post-game talks and team BBQs. That's Shaq and that's the Grant family. What's more, Shaq's mother, Patty, has a very nice relationship with Coach Jeff Tedford, from when Syd played there. She knows her son will be in good hands with Tedford and Company.
[Shaq's visit to the hospital]
Any ideas what Shaq's interests are and what he would like to pursue academically?
Joe: Not sure if Shaq knows just yet, either. But he's a sharp kid, very likeable. A bit shy and quiet, but a magnet of charm with his teammates. He's an excellent student, and he's learned from his brother Syd that Cal can be a terrific place academically and athletically. And with Mom, Patty, Shaq knows she'd barge into a lecture hall at Cal in a heartbeat and sit next to him to ensure he's attending class. Nothing worse than Mom parked in the seat next to you.
What are Shaq's strengths as a player on the football field? What's his biggest strength in your opinion?
Joe: Terrific speed, cutback ability, burst, separation as a tailback. Incredibly versatile, a dynamic athlete, one of the absolute best I've seen in our area, and he could emerge as THE BEST football player we've had here, he's that special. I'd say his biggest strength is his versatility, desire and speed. He is a lock-down corner, a fine punter, a hard hitter, a breakaway threat on special teams, a good blocker, a punter, and an "oh my" runner.
[Shaq's junior highlights]
What do you think Shaq will need to improve upon to be successful at the next level? When do you expect Shaq to be ready to contribute?
Joe: Cal has to figure out where to put him – tailback, receiver, corner? His speed is already Pac-10 worthy, but like any athlete, he can get stronger, and he has to be ready to contribute immediately as a student. He's ready for that and he enjoys school, so no problem there, though Cal is a major jump up from a high school classroom setting. I believe Shaq can contribute immediately as a true freshman. He'll be too hard to keep off the field, and that speed is addictive. Coach Tedford and staff will want to have him on the field – returns, at least.
Shaq came to visit Cal unofficially last year. Any idea what his impressions are about Cal?
Joe: He liked Cal years ago when his brother Syd played, and he's liked Tedford, as has mom, Patty. It seemed destined to be Cal, since Syd was so successful there and enjoyed every aspect of the Berkeley life. Knowing Cal will be in a new stadium, is always a factor in the Pac-10 makes it all the more exciting for Shaq.
The Pacers lost to the Folsom in the semifinal game last year.
What is your outlook for Grant this season, after graduating prominent seniors such as Viliami Moala, Puka Lopa, Darryl Paulo, James Sample, and Ference Lang?
Joe: It's an amazing program in Del Paso Heights, and for 20 consecutive seasons as head coach, Mike Alberghini has had a playoff team. He'll have many more as Grant replenishes with athletes, many of whom are younger brothers or cousins of others. Grant could get right back to the section finals next year.
How would you compare Shaq's skill set with that of his brother Syd?
Joe: I think the world of Syd and he'll frown when he reads this, but Shaq will love it and say, "All true!" Syd was a national recruit because of his speed, skills, desire. Shaq is a national recruit and he's taller, faster, stronger than his brother and idol. Not sure Syd could guard Shaq if Shaq was a receiver and it was 4th and 10, last play. Be fun to watch. Of course, Syd will tell you he'd lock kid brother up.
Shaq is pretty tall and is being projected as a safety at the next level. Based on what you've seen, does he have the ability to close in on the ball and make plays off of it?
Joe: He absolutely has that ability, and he can hit like a truck, that closing speed and ferocity all rolled into one. He's also a superb cover guy. I am sure Cal will look at him as a receiver and tailback too. His highlight films are breathtaking, and Tedford and his staff have seen him play in person. In short, you could play this kid in a lot of spots.
Does Shaq have the ability to play both ways in college, or would he be better off focusing on one position?
Joe: If there's a 2-way prospect, this is it. Shaq has amazing versatility and endurance. I would imagine Tedford and staff would want him on the field a lot. I could see Shaq playing receiver and special teams, or receiver and in the secondary. Not often we see a tailback/safety combo, though. Shaq's unique. He could do it.
How does Shaq feel about the legacy his brother Syd has left at Cal?
Joe: He's very proud of that, very much in admiration of his brother, his reputation, his impact. It's a big reason he wants to go to Cal. Syd still feels the Cal impact – all good – and Shaq wants to continue that legacy. Cal fans will love this kid in the open field, in conversation, as a leader, student and overall young man. He's as can't miss in all those categories as you'll ever find.
[My favorite Syd moment, because I was there!]
I leave you w/ an interview of Shaq from his junior season :
First Keenan Allen and now Shaq Thompson. The future is bright Bears. Welcome to Cal Shaq. Go Bears!