Thompson Goes in Fourth Round but Still Finds Reason to Celebrate

Scott Thompson, the 7-foot center who led the University of San Diego basketball team to an NCAA Tournament berth last March, woke up Monday feeling optimisic.

By Monday afternoon, though, he was feeling a little down.

Thompson was selected in the fourth round of the National Basketball Assn. draft by the Washington Bullets, the 81st player taken overall. He had hoped to be selected earlier.

Thompson's parents had some close friends and family over for a little get-together in Sacramento, but most of the food and drink was gone by the time Thompson's attorney, Mark Termini, called from Cleveland to tell him he had been drafted by the Bullets.

The folks at the Thompson house still were happy for Scott and they celebrated some. Thompson, too, was happy but he also realized his predicament.

"This (getting picked so late) means that I'll really have to work very hard," he said in a phone interview.

Hank Egan, his college coach, agreed.

"I think we were all expecting him to go earlier," Egan said. "I think this is a signal to Scott that he's going to have to work very hard to improve when he gets to training camp."

Thompson, who was named the West Coast Athletic Conference's Player of the Year last season, averaged 15.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He wound up his career as USD's third-leading career scorer and he made the All-WCAC first team three times.

Thompson expected to be drafted late in the second round or maybe in the third round at the latest. Near the end of last season there was even some talk of Thompson going in the first round.

Thompson had played in some college all-star tournaments this summer and also participated in the NBA's workout camps. He thought he played well.

"I didn't play my best," Thompson said. "But I didn't think I killed (my chances in the draft) either."

Thompson's pro career isn't ended yet. But few fourth-round picks manage to stick.

"Scott has to go out and show these people that they made some mistakes in this (draft)," Egan said.

Thompson said: "I was disappointed because of all of the hype that seemed to surround this draft. Everything from the first round to the second to whatever. Now, that it's the fourth round, I'm a little more inspired."

If Thompson were to make the Bullets, it would likely be as a backup for Moses Malone, three-time league Most Valuable Player or center Manute Bol, the league's tallest player at 7-7.

Other front-court Washington players include second-year 6-9 forward John Williams, and third-year 6-11 forward Terry Catledge.

One thing Thompson has going for him is that the Bullets did not take any other centers ahead of him. Washington's first three picks were guard Tyrone Bogues of Wake Forest, forward Derrick Dowell of USC and guard Danny Pearson of Jacksonville.

But Thompson was the 11th center drafted. And not all of them were exactly big names. A few examples: Lester Fonville of Jackson State (second round), Hansi Gnad of Alaska-Anchorage (third round) and Jack Haley of UCLA (fourth round).

"Some people could say that Scott didn't get enough notoriety playing in our conference," Egan said. "But I don't believe that. Just look at some of the other players that were taken ahead of him. I just think this shows how much the NBA people think he's going to have to work."

Thompson is well aware of that. Last year, of the 23 players taken in the fourth round only two made NBA rosters--Grant Gondrezick of Pepperdine who was the 77th player taken by Phoenix and Conner Henry of UC Santa Barbara who was the 90th player taken by Houston and later traded to Boston.

"I know this (getting drafted) is something I've always wanted," Thompson said. "And I know I'm going to give it a good shot. I'll do everything that I have to do and hope it works out for me."

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