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Star Running Back Helps Spark Bassett's Drive in Division V : Leading Rusher Catches Eyes of Major Recruiters

September 28, 1989|MITCH POLIN | Times Staff Writer

Marshawn Thompson remembers the prediction his father, Troy, made when he was still playing youth football as an eighth grader.

"He told me and he told everyone in the neighborhood, 'One day Marshawn's going to put Bassett High on the map," he says.

At the time, that probably seemed to be a rather outlandish statement.

After all, Bassett did not have a winning tradition and Thompson had yet to play a down of high school football.

But, since he joined the varsity three years ago, Thompson has made his father seem prescient.

The 17-year-old has shattered most of his school's rushing records and played a central role in Bassett's transformation from a perennial also-ran into one of the emerging powers in the CIF Southern Section Division V.

At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Thompson has been the leading rusher in the San Gabriel Valley for the last two seasons. He rushed for 1,701 yards and 16 touchdowns in 301 carries as a junior and has run for 584 yards and 8 touchdowns in 77 carries after only three games this season.

Toss in 243 yards rushing as a sophomore and Thompson has rushed for 2,528 yards in his three years as a starter.

It is no coincidence that the fortunes of the Olympians have also risen since Thompson has been a starter. Bassett finished with a 5-5 record in Thompson's sophomore season; the Olympians were 8-3 last year and won their first Montview League title, and the team is 2-1 this season and is ranked No. 6 in Division V.

That's a far cry from the 2-7 record Bassett posted the year before Thompson joined the varsity. It was a mark that was more the rule than the exception at Bassett and, at the time, Thompson said it was a major concern.

"When I was a freshman here, I was thinking to myself, 'I hope it isn't like that when I'm a sophomore,' " he said.

Although the team improved in his sophomore year, it was hardly a showcase season for Thompson. "As a sophomore, I didn't really get the ball enough to prove I could carry the ball," he said.

However, Thompson's fortunes, as well as the team's, changed for the better when Coach Mark Pettingill installed "The Toss" as Bassett's offense before last season. The run-oriented offense utilizes only one running back and hoisted Thompson into the spotlight.

Thompson also credits more of a take-charge approach toward his development as a junior.

"I just thought right then, 'It's my junior year and I have to do what I can,' " he said. "This is a small school (with 1,350 students), and you have to do something impressive to get noticed. Last year, I just tried my hardest, and fortunately we ended up with a pretty good season."

With his impressive junior year, Thompson has received considerably more attention this season. A consensus prep All-America selection, he was named to preseason squads selected by The Sporting News, G & W Recruiting Report of Pennsylvania and super scouts Max Emfinger of Texas and Tom Lemming of Illinois, among others.

In fact, Thompson is the first legitimate major-college prospect the program has produced in recent years. He is certainly the only Bassett player in recent years who has an opportunity to go directly to a top NCAA Division I program.

"We've had people go to Division I schools before, but most have had to go the (junior college) route first," Pettingill said.

Thompson said he started receiving recruiting letters toward the end of last school year. "I started getting recruited about a month before school ended and during the summer the phone was ringing off the hook," he said. "It's still ringing off the hook."

He estimated that he has received recruiting letters from nearly 100 schools and has been recruited intensely by about 20 of those, including Colorado, Fresno State, UCLA, USC, Nebraska and Kansas.

The attention, Thompson says, can be a distraction at times.

"When you're sitting there watching a good movie or you're doing your homework and then you get a call and you're on the phone for 30 minutes or an hour, it kind of gets to you," he said. "But you just have to adjust to it. You don't want to hang up on them because you might end up going to that school."

Pettingill said he first was concerned that Thompson might receive too much attention.

"Before the season I was concerned that he would be getting favoritism at the expense of the rest of the team, but that hasn't been the case," he said. "In fact, he's even helped some of the other kids get noticed."

The coach also feared that, because of the attention Thompson was receiving, he would become a marked target on the field this season.

"I would have thought that would be the case, but he's pretty much on pace with where he was last year at this time and he's got more touchdowns," Pettingill said.

Although it may seem as if it is a carbon copy of last season, Thompson says opponents have treated him differently.

"I get a lot more respect from them," he said. "They come after me harder, especially in the first quarter."

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