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Science Project

Charles Rich

Find a scientist to sample the mass muscle of a local physical

specimen who is only 15 years old.

If there’s a scientist available, then he or she can look no

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further than at a strapping lad making large waves inside the La

Canada High pool.

The subject?

La Canada boys’ water polo player Jordan Thompson, who is 6 feet 5

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and a robust 230 pounds. Those dimensions were unheard of 15 or 20

years ago for a high school sophomore, so scientists are undoubtedly

gathering data to determine why teenagers like Thompson are colossal.

Thompson produced some hulk-like statistics this season, including

a team-high 75 goals that helped him share the Rio Hondo League’s

Most Valuable Player award with senior teammate Tom Dodson.

“I see a connection between science and water polo,” said

Thompson, who was selected as the 2003 News-Press All-Area Player of

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the Year by the writers and editors of the News-Press and Burbank

Leader. “You have to have a huge jump in skill in areas like speed

and endurance.

“When you have the ball, it’s like it being a part of your hands.”

The Spartans (20-8) put their trust in Thompson’s hands to help

them win the league championship and advance to the semifinals of CIF

Southern Section Division III playoffs for the fifth time in the past

seven seasons. Surrounded by an all-star cast of players that

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included Dodson, Scott Burns, Kevin Coyne, Craig McNeese, Matt

Blatchley and Devon Borisoff, Thompson enjoyed a breakout season that

also saw him collect All-CIF first-team honors.

He played with consistency and a purpose, something not all

sophomores are equip to handle when competing for a high-profile

program. Thompson never blinked, but some defenders did when assigned

to guard him.

For example, take La Canada’s 17-7 first-round victory against

Whittier on Nov. 13 at Pasadena City College. Thompson scored a

highlight-reel goal that served as the contest’s exclamation point.

In backward motion, Thompson spun full circle to score.

“Once you’ve played for some time, you have to improvise,”

Thompson, a hole/set. “It’s the only time [this season] that I tried

that play.

“The defender has his hips down and tries to clasp on to you, so

you can carry them and shoot.”

Dodson, the team’s hole/guard, who registered 49 goals and 42

steals this season, looked on in amazement after Thompson scored the

eye-popping goal.

“I still don’t know how he did that,” Dodson said. “To do

something like that in front of a defender just stood out to me.

“With those long arms and reach, he can manhandle a defense. He’s

very powerful.

“With practice, he’ll have the combination of talent and strength

and he’ll find a happy medium.”

Thompson’s showmanship never took a beating when he played on the

school’s junior varsity program in 2002. He gained valuable

experience performing in more than 50 summer league matches, which

helped him prepare for the varsity squad.

About seven or eight matches into this season, La Canada Coach

Larry Naeve inserted Thompson into the starting lineup. Naeve, who

has guided La Canada to three CIF championships since 1979, acted on

a hunch, moving Dodson to hole/guard and Thompson to hole/set.

“I didn’t have any expectations coming into the season,” Thompson

said. “There’s so much talent with Tom, who is an amazing athlete on

defense.

“It took me some time to make the connection that I would be

starting, and I had a glowing smile.”

Thompson occasionally drew the ire of Naeve, a perfectionist who

has drawn the respect of fellow water polo coaches around Southern

California. Thompson wasn’t about to question the methods that have

traditionally made the Spartans explosive.

“He yelled at me for my own good,” Thompson said. “It could have

happened when I took a stupid shot or made a passing error.

“But he’s always given me another chance, and I have to prove to

him [and assistant coach George Akopyan] that it’s worth giving me

another chance and earn the respect of my teammates.”

It’s all in the muscle for Thompson, and scientists are ready to

explore.

*

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

JORDAN THOMPSON * LA CANADA SOPHOMORE * HOLE/SET

* Named Rio Hondo League co-MVP with teammate Tom Dodson.

* Selected to first team All-CIF Southern Section Division III.

* Led Spartans with 75 goals.

* First-year varsity player helped La Canada to a 20-8 record, the

league championship and a berth in the Division III semifinals for

the second consecutive year.


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