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Oregon State Basketball: Coach Thompson and the Beavs’ Link to the CIF Southern Section

Oregon State’s connection To Southern California Recruits.

Loyalty is a big part of the basketball galaxy in this day and age, in which players spend summers playing and plotting amongst each other, planning for the future season. In a day where transfers are at the speed of light, it is difficult to keep track of high school recruits these days. There are no more neighborhood teams, not because the kids don’t live within the parameters of the school anymore, but simply because they want to play elsewhere with fellow recruits and programs they forge relationships with over the offseason.

Take a look at Oregon’s recent gem recruit, Bol Bol, for instance. During the 2016-2017 high school basketball season, I was checking Twitter when one tweet made my heart stop: Bol Bol enrolls at Santa Ana Mater Dei. This tweet was announced by OC Register Sports Writer Steve Fryer, whom I questioned and he confirmed that Bol Bol transferred from Kansas to play basketball at the infamous Mater Dei High School in Orange County. The high school basketball world held its breath, as Bol Bol gained instant eligibility to play since Mater Dei is a private school that has its own jurisdiction outside of CIF rules and regulations. Then came the ridiculous videos of Bol towering over opponents and dunking at ease. However, after losses in the CIF Open Division Southern Section Final and CIF Open Division playoffs, Bol left during the summer to Henderson, Nevada to suit up for basketball powerhouse Findlay Prep.

Now, where does Oregon State fall amongst all this chaos?

To answer this question, we must go back to the 2016-2017 high school basketball season in the CIF Southern Section...

The CIF Southern Section has historically had the nation’s top programs and individuals, dating back for decades. The names change, as back in the day it was Tyson Chandler (Compton Dominguez), James Harden (Lakewood Artesia), Kawhi Leonard (King), to present day Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills), but the fact remains the same: Southern Section reigns dominant in all of high school basketball. In the 2016-2017 season, MaxPreps claimed that the Southern Section yielded four of the nation’s top 25 teams in Mater Dei, Sierra Canyon, Chino Hills, and Bishop Montgomery. These four teams squared off in the Open Division of the CIF Southern Section championships, the only section in the nation where all four teams in the semi-finals were ranked. Out of Mater Dei, you had Bol Bol. Sierra Canyon had the incredibly talented man-child Marvin Bagley. Chino Hills had Melo and Gelo Ball along with recent USC commit Onyeka Okongwu. Meanwhile, Bishop Montgomery, although a talented group with an excellent coach, was overlooked.

Bishop Montgomery was a great program. That being said, if you asked anybody during that time who would go on to win the CIF Open Division Championship, nobody would tell you the Knights. The other three teams had the ESPN top 100 recruits, whereas the Bishop Montgomery Knights were a “humble” group led by Ethan Thompson and Jordan Schakel (SDSU), but they didn’t nearly have the talent. The Knights went on to defeat the rest of the three teams throughout the course of the Section Playoffs and State Playoffs, including a stretch where Ethan dunked on Bol Bol and even ended the State Championships with a nasty 360 dunk. This solidified his place within Southern Section basketball history, as he won the Open Division CIF title his senior year along with the prestigious title as Mr. Cal-Hi California State player of the year, given annually to the best player in the state.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Stephen Thompson is no stranger to the Southern Section, having graduated from Crenshaw High School before playing at Syracuse University and enjoying a year in the NBA. Ten years removed from the NBA, he began to coach at Cal-State Los Angeles before accepting his assistant position at Oregon State. With his move, he brought his two sons: two prolific players not only within the Southern Section, but also nationally as each Thompson was ranked within the ESPN 100 their respective senior years.

Both brothers spend a lot of time back in Los Angeles during their time off and both have played in the legendary Drew League against NBA and overseas pros during the past few seasons. Coach Thompson has also brought his relationships within the Southern Section to get various recruits in the Greater Los Angeles Area to Corvallis. Gianni Hunt, a longtime teammate of Ethan Thompson at Bishop Montgomery, recently committed to Oregon State and the Beavs have snagged Jarod Lucas and Julien Franklin, who both play within the Southern Section.

To put it simply, as other programs within the nation recruit in hopes of retraining the talent of the top recruits for a season, Oregon State has looked elsewhere and for longevity. Oregon State cannot garner the talent of a Duke or Kentucky type of program caters to, however, the program has looked into other outlets for top-notch talent. Luckily some of the best in the nation can be found in the backyard of Coach Thompson.

These kids have all been looked over because of the fact that so many ESPN 100 talent can be found throughout the area and if they simply moved out of the state they would garner more attention. Players from such a competitive area with a chip on their shoulder allow for more chemistry to build amongst players throughout the years. This is a trend amongst March Madness as seen through Jay Wright’s championship program at Villanova. Rather than a crop of “one and dones”, college basketball’s landscape is now made up of units of players that have stuck together through thick and thin, hoping for their moment of glory to cut down the nets. Bishop Montgomery’s perseverance through the Open Division CIF Championships against future “one and dones” is exactly the model Coach Thompson is envisioning.

As they say, history tends to repeat itself and this type of recruiting will hopefully lead to another chance for Coach Thompson to down a Goliath of the hoops world.

Southern Section Oregon State 2019 Commits:

Gianni Hunt - self nicknamed “slept child” for constantly being under the radar, yet exceeding expectations. At Bishop Montgomery, Gianni won a state title with Ethan Thompson amongst top national talent. Hunt Spent his last AAU season with the legendary Oakland Soldiers, where he solidified his standing as one of the nation’s best, graded by ESPN as a 80 overall and a four-star recruit.

Julien Franklin - another seemingly unknown prospect who committed to Oregon State during his junior season at Villa Park. Franklin Averaged 25 points per game last season for the Spartans in which he had a 52 point outburst at the Tarkanian Classic against Leuzinger (where Westbrook prepped). He can score easily, has a fluid game, nice touch on him and is a great get for the Beavs despite being only a two-star prospect per several scouting services.

Jarod Lucas - tough guard for Los Altos High School who can score at all levels and with ease. He had a 40 piece on the opening night of the Bellflower tournament, can put it on the floor, find the open man, and has a soft touch on the perimeter. His team lost to eventual CIF Division 2AA champion Crossroads, who had Shareef O’Neal (UCLA). Last spring/summer he suited up for the one and only Compton Magic, who won the Adidas Gauntlet Championships and beat the Nike EYBL champs to claim the unofficial title as the best AAU team in the country.

Current Oregon State Recruits in the Southern Section:

KJ Martin - Intriguing prospect for the Beavers (also the son of Kenyon Martin) who played for Sierra Canyon alongside Scotty Pippen Jr. Duane Washington (nephew of Derek Fisher), and high flying Cassius Stanley. Although ESPN has Martin as a four-star with an overall grade of 80 and Cassius Stanley is by far the most athletic of the bunch, KJ is clearly the alpha dog. Last year, at the Nike Extravangaza, I witnessed KJ Martin having a beast of a 20-20 game when Sierra Canyon played Long Beach Poly. KJ has a game similar to his father’s and although he is a big undersized at 6’6”, he makes up for it with his sense of rebounding and has a nose for dunks and easy put backs. KJ played for the Oakland Soldiers of the Nike EYBL alongside Gianni Hunt and they put together a great run, just coming up short in the semi-final to Team Why Not, which ironically featured running mate Cassius Stanley. Oregon State recently made his top eight and with Coach Thompson’s knack for getting recruits within the Southern Section, KJ donning the orange and black wouldn’t be the biggest stretch.

Terren Frank - Another talented member of Sierra Canyon is the 6’7” post, who recently got ranked in the ESPN 60 for upcoming junior prospects. Last season, Frank averaged a solid 10 points and 9 rebounds for the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers. This past summer, Frank suited up with the Nike Phamily of the Nike EYBL, which was the club that Marvin Bagley previously played for. Frank has post skills and can drain the three-point shot consistently, however, this upcoming season he will play a bigger role for Sierra with the departure of Duane Washington Jr. (Ohio State).

Orlando Robinson, Jr - intriguing 6’10” traditional post who prepped last year for Cathedral High School who competed in the CIF State 2AA Championships. He recently opted to play a graduate post-senior season at prep school Middlebrooks Academy, who isn’t sanctioned by CIF but plays high school teams in scrimmage games and plays other top prep schools in the nation. He played his AAU basketball with the Las Vegas Knicks of the Adidas Gauntlet Circuit.