LaMar Thompson's first love is still basketball, but he is finding volleyball to be a pleasant diversion after taking up the sport a little more than month ago.
His teammates on the Manual Arts High volleyball team have also found the 6-foot-6 junior a welcome addition to a squad whose next-tallest player is 5-foot-9. "He's really been helping us out a lot," senior setter Miguel Vera said.
The Toilers, though, could have used a lot more help Wednesday against eight-time City champion Palisades. The Dolphins, whose lineup includes four players 6-4 or taller, rolled to a 15-2, 15-7, 15-4 Coastal Conference victory at Palisades.
Despite the loss, Thompson, the starting center on Manual Arts' basketball team, showed signs of a promising future in volleyball. He finished with 11 kills and four blocks and has been the team's blocking leader, averaging nearly seven a match. Charles Murphy also had four kills and Elias Puente added three blocks for Manual Arts.
"It's a fun sport but I'm still learning," Thompson said. "Spiking a volleyball is a lot like dunking."
The Toilers were mostly on the receiving end of spikes in the match against Palisades (4-3). They were particularly vulnerable to the attacks of 6-5 Colin Wellman, who had 17 kills, and 6-7 James Turner, who had nine.
It was the fifth consecutive loss for Manual Arts (2-5), which has not won a match since a four-game victory over Crenshaw in its season opener.
The Toilers, whose other victory was by virtue of a forfeit by Fremont, have been outscored, 135-34, in their last three matches.
Palisades scored 14 consecutive points to take a 14-1 lead in Wednesday's first game and ran off 11 in a row to break a 4-4 tie in the third game.
Manual Arts rallied from a 9-3 deficit in the second game to close to 10-7 before the Dolphins regrouped to win the game by scoring the next five points.
"I still think we'll do pretty good once league starts," Manual Arts Coach Gregory Bewernick said of the Toilers, who open Metro league play against Los Angeles on Monday.