Mychal Thompson might be the best basketball player to ever play for the University of Minnesota. He still holds the school record for highest scoring average in a season with 25.9 points per game in 1975-1976. He also has the No. 8 and No. 9 spots at 22.1 ppg in 1977-78 and 22.0 points in 1976-77.
The 6-10 center was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1978 NBA draft by Portland. He later played with the Spurs and Lakers and averaged 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in his 12-year NBA career, with those numbers dropping off drastically once he joined the Lakers and primarily backed up Kareem-Abdul Jabbar.
He played on Gophers teams that featured five NBA draft choices: Thompson, Steve Lingenfelter, Ray Williams, Mark Landsberger and Kevin McHale.
Now Thompson has three sons trying to outdo him. Golden State guard Klay Thompson, who has put on a brilliant postseason three-point shooting exhibition — making 28 threes in the Trail Blazers series and 30 against the Thunder in the Western Conference finals, the second- and third-most threes in a series in NBA playoff history — and sparked the Warriors to the NBA Finals for the second consecutive season.
Trayce Thompson is an outfielder with the L.A. Dodgers. Mychal’s oldest son, Mychel, is playing in the NBA D-League with the Santa Cruz Warriors and trying to make it back to the NBA after playing in Italy last year.
Like his sons, Mychal Thompson was a superb athlete who could have led three or four teams to the NCAA Final Four had coach Bill Musselman not left the Gophers for the ABA in 1975 with over 100 pending NCAA violations from his four-year tenure. As a result, the Gophers were banned from postseason play and television appearances for two years.
Proud, nervous father
Thompson hosts a ESPN radio show in Los Angeles and said he couldn’t even watch Klay’s Game 7 performance in the Western Conference finals Monday because he gets too nervous. Klay scored 21 points and hit six three-pointers to help lead the Warriors past Oklahoma City 96-88.
Klay put on the greatest long-range shooting performance in NBA playoff history during Game 6 when he scored 41 points and made a playoff-record 11 three-pointers in a 108-101 victory. It was the only reason the Warriors even got to play Game 7, after trailing 3-1 in the series.
Trayce is having a solid season for the Dodgers, after playing his first year in the majors with the White Sox. He is hitting .266 with seven home runs, 19 RBI and 18 runs scored while playing every position in the outfield.
Mychel played college basketball at Pepperdine and spent part of the 2011-12 season playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since then he’s played for several NBA D-League teams.
Their father said he’s proud of all of his kids’ achievements in a May interview with Fox Sports. He said it’s similar to any other parent, just slightly different.
“It’s great when you see your child realizing their dreams, no matter what their profession is,” he said. “The difference with me is I’m watching my kids pursue their dreams and achieve their goals in a public setting because they have very public jobs. But I’m no different than any parent who has a child who is able to obtain or reach their goals. Any parent can understand how I feel.”
In the same interview, Mychal said that while he played in the NBA and won two titles with the Lakers, he credits his wife, Julie, a former college volleyball player at the University of San Francisco, for most of their three sons’ great athletic talent.
“We’re really blessed, and that’s why I tell my boys to be thankful for every moment,” Thompson said. “Because this does not last for long. So be sure you don’t waste a second of your opportunity.”
Wolves’ hope grows
With the NBA Finals starting Thursday, it’s a good time to think about the Timberwolves’ bright future. National media outlets are doing just that.
ESPN recently released their 2016 NBA Future Power Rankings, which ranks each franchise’s long-term potential. The Wolves rose from No. 19 before the start of the season to No. 9.
The Wolves trail the Warriors, Cavaliers, Celtics, Spurs, Thunder, Heat, Jazz and Trail Blazers. Chad Ford wrote: “If you focus on the next two years, [ranking them No. 9] feels about right, given how young their roster is. But by the 2018-19 season? This team could be a contender.”
Ford wrote that Wolves center and Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns has the potential to be a top-five player in the NBA, and teaming him with Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica and the No. 5 pick in the June 23 draft gives them “arguably, the best young roster in the NBA.”
Ford also wrote that the Wolves now have a top-five coach in Tom Thibodeau and a smart general manager in Scott Layden.
• What a pickup outfielder Robbie Grossman has been for the Twins so far. He’s hitting .359 with two home runs and nine RBI in only 12 games. Grossman was signed as a minor league free agent on a one-year contract.
• Oakland third baseman Danny Valencia tore up his former club this week, going 6-for-10 in the Athletics’ three-game sweep of the Twins with a home run, three doubles and three RBI. He is hitting .346 this season, which is a surprise. When the Twins let him go in 2012, he was hitting only .198.
• The Gophers being selected for the NCAA baseball tournament this year for the first time since 2010 brought back memories of the outstanding 1973 Gophers team that could have won the national title. Dave Winfield was starring for the Gophers in a College World Series semifinal game against USC, who had future major leaguers Roy Smalley, Rich Dauer and Fred Lynn on the roster. Winfield struck out 15 through eight innings and the Gophers led 7-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning, but the Trojans came back to win 8-7 and went on to win the NCAA championship.
• There was never any question forward Charles Buggs wasn’t coming back to the Gophers basketball team. He and coach Richard Pitino didn’t get along. … The Gophers have one more scholarship, and if they want to have a contending team next year, there are some pretty good players still out there who would add a lot to the team. … The Gophers had 145 athletes honored as Academic All-Big Ten on Wednesday for spring sports, giving them 282 for the academic year.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org