Sports

Loyola's Thompson is answering the call

There's an interesting way to determine whether a high school athlete has attained big-time status in the college recruiting world.

Just take a peek at his family's phone bill.

Hollis Thompson, a 6-foot-8 junior basketball player at Los Angeles Loyola, almost gave his mother, Debra, a heart attack when she discovered the phone bill had exceeded $800 for one month this summer.

"I kind of knew it would be high," Thompson said. "So many different colleges were texting me, so I had to text back."

Starting June 15, when college coaches could begin to contact him, Thompson's cellphone rang nonstop. Coaches from Duke, UCLA, USC, Georgetown, Arizona and Stanford called or sent text messages. And he wasn't the only one being inundated with calls and messages.

Loyola Coach Jamal Adams said he had to investigate whether he needed a new text-messaging plan to deal with all the coaches trying to communicate with him.

"My phone just rings and rings," Adams said. "A coach called and said, 'He might be the hottest name in the country from where he's come from.' "

By the time Thompson's basketball season ended in February, he was named second-team all-Mission League. By summer's end, through attending camps and playing in tournaments in Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Las Vegas, he had attained national-recruit status. Rivals.com has him ranked No. 24 in the nation for the Class of 2009.

"It happened so fast it was crazy," he said.

Add the fact he has a 4.2 grade-point average, and Thompson has put himself in position to select any college he wants.

He grew two inches over the summer, raised his weight to 185 pounds and became a better ballhandler and more consistent shooter.

"Really, it's been a lot of work in the gym," he said.

All the sudden interest has made an impression on Thompson.

"It was amazing," he said. "I was in awe. It made me feel good about myself and all the hard work."

Thompson wasn't the only Southland athlete who earned respect for dramatic improvement during the summer.

Others distinguishing themselves:

* Chris Solomon, Los Angeles Fairfax. With Chace Stanback off to play basketball at UCLA, the Lions needed a new scoring threat, and the 6-2 senior stepped up big time. He was the most valuable player at the Watts Summer Games, where he averaged more than 20 points a game.

"There were many nights he put up 25 or 30 points and we didn't know it," Coach Harvey Kitani said.

* Beau Wright, Los Alamitos. A 16-strikeout performance over seven innings in an American Legion baseball game against Lakewood let everyone know that this 6-1, 195-pound left-handed pitcher is ready to become a varsity standout in his junior year.

"He really stepped it up this summer," Los Alamitos Coach Mark Claybough said.

* David Nick, Cypress. As a sophomore second baseman playing on the same team with Josh Vitters, the No. 3 pick in the Major League Baseball draft, Nick earned all-league honors. But this summer he proved he's a major college prospect. "He's a darn good player," Coach John Weber said. "He's a guy who can hit the ball all over the yard."

* Zach Vincej, Saugus. After hitting .542 as a sophomore infielder, Vincej took his skills to the USA Youth national team and batted .583 in helping the team win the gold medal at the World Youth championships in Venezuela last month.

* Zack Zerrenner, Santa Barbara. A senior defender, he scored the winning goal to help his club team win the U.S. Youth Soccer 16-and-under national championship.

He wasn't considered a national recruit before the summer began but ended up committing to UCLA. Zerrenner ran and hiked for hours this summer in the hills around Santa Barbara, challenging himself physically and mentally.

"I pushed myself," he said.

* Lane Carico, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa. What's a girls' volleyball team supposed to do when its most talented player in school history, Alix Klineman, has left for Stanford? The Mustangs turned to Carico, a 5-11 senior outside hitter who has committed to Miami and made important strides over the summer.

* Richard Brehaut, Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos. This junior quarterback could be one of the best two-sport standouts in the Southland -- he's also an outstanding baseball player. But it was his improved arm strength that got him noticed. He started the football season by scoring the winning touchdown last week on a 32-yard run against La Puente Bishop Amat and also completed 15 of 19 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown.

* Ryan Katz, Santa Monica. A senior quarterback, Katz accepted a scholarship to Oregon State after a summer in which he showed he could compete against some of the best passers in the Southland.

* Blake Stanton, Encino Crespi. A starter at point guard as a freshman for the basketball team, Stanton made his biggest impression this summer playing wide receiver in football passing competitions.

* Dylan Davis, Newport Beach Corona del Mar. The 6-7 junior volleyball player led his club team to the 16-and-under national championship at the Junior Olympics, establishing himself as one of the Southland's elite players.

Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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