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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Trayce Thompson breaks with tradition

He is pursuing a future in baseball and not basketball, the sport played by his father and brothers.

April 06, 2009|ERIC SONDHEIMER

One month into the high school baseball season, it's clear which player has made a big jump to emerge as a much-talked about college and professional prospect: center fielder Trayce Thompson of Rancho Santa Margarita.

The 6-foot-3 Thompson was known primarily for his basketball background because his father, Mychal, was the No. 1 player taken in the 1978 NBA draft, and his older brothers, Mychel and Klay, were starters this season at Pepperdine and Washington State, respectively.

Thompson was an important contributor for Santa Margarita's 2008 state Division III championship basketball team.

Then he did something that stunned many -- he quit basketball last summer to focus year-round on baseball.

"It wasn't that tough because I love baseball so much and want to go as far as I can," he said. "It was tough for my dad. He's used to every winter going to basketball games instead of winter baseball games."

But what a difference it has made for Thompson's baseball future.

"There's a lot of buzz about him to see a guy that big and strong and how he plays the game real easy," said UCLA Coach John Savage, who signed Thompson in November.

Two weeks ago, Thompson hit two home runs when Santa Margarita upset No. 1-ranked Santa Ana Mater Dei, 4-2. Last season, he hit a home run against first-round draft pick Gerrit Cole of Orange Lutheran.

"He definitely has all-the-way-to-the-top potential," Santa Margarita Coach Kris Jondle said. "He's a great athlete, loves baseball and is very fluid."

Thompson has provoked intense curiosity because no one knows how good he could become by focusing on baseball.

"I've never played a full season of baseball because of basketball," he said. "Playing every day helps a lot. It's what I want to do with my life. I want to go as far as I can, and I need to get used to that."

He always has had power, remembering how as a fourth-grader he could hit a baseball farther than his older brothers.

"I'm not the biggest guy in the world," he said. "I'm not the strongest guy. I guess it's natural. The power has really jumped up a lot. I guess it's getting your hips into the ball and using your legs a lot more."

He credits former major leaguer Chris Gwynn for helping his swing and teaching him fundamentals.

Savage could be sweating it out in June when the draft occurs to see which professional team decides to make a run at Thompson, but he's hoping Thompson will see the value of playing in the Pacific 10 Conference.

"He's been in a gymnasium his whole life," Savage said. "His whole structure will change. He needs at-bats, he needs games."

And Thompson's commitment to baseball can be seen in his development on and off the field.

"You have to have that mentality you want to play every day, and I honestly want to play every day," he said. "It's a grind, but it's going to be worth it."

Home run barrage

Shannon Colquitt, a senior softball player at Los Angeles King-Drew, has hit 15 home runs, putting her in contention to challenge the state single-season record of 19 set last season by Crenshaw's Alia Williams.

Track in the spotlight

There's no better track meet than Saturday's Arcadia Invitational at Arcadia High. From the locals to the out-of-state contestants, this is the meet in which the competitors get to test themselves against the best.

Marmonte shuffle

Word is that Marmonte League schools are ready to accept Westlake Village Oaks Christian in their league when they are forced to meet again next month to come up with a plan for the 2010 season.

But will Oaks Christian be asked to play in the Marmonte for football only or in all sports?

Marmonte schools are not pleased with Calabasas, which has asked to leave the league for football only.

Don't be surprised if Calabasas is booted out for all sports.

--

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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