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Basketball success is relative for Southern California prep stars

ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

There are more than a dozen high school players in Southern California with NBA ties in their family backgrounds, and they're doing their forebears proud.

January 17, 2013|Eric Sondheimer

Having a father or brother with NBA ties is a valuable asset for a high school basketball player.

At unbeaten Torrance Bishop Montgomery (20-0), Lamond Murray Jr. and Stephen Thompson Jr., both sons of former NBA players, have taken advantage of their family backgrounds to become top players and set themselves up to keep climbing in the sport.

And they're not alone. There are more than a dozen players in Southern California with NBA ties, showing that the sons are rising up and making fathers, and brothers, proud.

At Santa Ana Mater Dei, Elijah Brown, the son of former Lakers Coach Mike Brown, has made dramatic improvement as a shooter. Making major contributions at Los Angeles Fairfax are Reggie Theus Jr., whose father played in the NBA for many years and coached the Sacramento Kings, and Lindsey Drew, whose father, Larry Sr., is coach of the Atlanta Hawks.

At Bellflower St. John Bosco, Isaac and Daniel Hamilton, the younger brothers of Denver Nuggets forward Jordan Hamilton, are two of the best guards in Southern California. At Palisades, the Chamber twins, Dakota and Colton, sons of former NBA all-star Tom Chambers, are pulling down rebounds and banging bodies inside.

Woodland Hills El Camino Real has Julian Richardson, the son of former NBA guard Pooh Richardson. Oak Park has Ron Lee Jr., the son of the former Phoenix Suns guard. North Hollywood Campbell Hall has Aaron Holiday, brother of Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday.

In the case of Murray, whose father only recently retired after playing overseas, the chance to work out with a professional athlete who's still in good shape adds to the advantage he feels he has.

"Definitely it's been beneficial because of the experience I get when I practice with him and shoot around," he said. "He gives me tips, so it gives me an advantage that nobody else has."

Thompson also gets tips from his father, Stephen Sr., who is recognized as one of the best high school players to ever come out of Los Angeles when he was dunking and causing havoc as a guard for Crenshaw High in the 1980s. He's now the head coach at Cal State Los Angeles.

"When he was first born, I was playing professionally overseas," Stephen Sr. said. "He was in a gym as a baby trying to shoot the ball up and get it to the basket. It's beneficial from the standpoint he has a father that has been through what he's going through and can teach him and guide him and let him know the intricacies of the game. He's been a good listener."

The 6-foot-5 Murray, a Pepperdine signee, has used his versatility to become a dangerous offensive weapon. He has three-point shooting skills that make his cousins, former Glendora stars Tracy and Cameron Murray, smile. He also has the strength to go inside.

"It's very important, because when you get to the next level, lots of people always want to stop what they think is your strength," he said. "If you have multiple strengths, they won't be able to stop you."

What's admirable about Murray and Thompson is that their parents made sure that academics was as important as basketball. Murray didn't become serious about the sport until seventh grade.

"I just wanted to make sure he had a balance of both so he could pick what he was most passionate about," Lamond Sr. said.

The 6-3 Thompson has a 4.5 grade-point average.

"My parents push academics before athletics," Thompson said.

His development this season has helped Bishop Montgomery become one of the top teams in the Southland.

"He's a phenomenal shooter," Coach Doug Mitchell said.

Thompson is so soft-spoken that you can barely hear his voice. But something happens when he steps onto a basketball court. The intensity rises and his mind goes into action.

"I love to compete," he said. "I keep inside my emotions, and I'm real passionate inside."

If there's one disadvantage for the sons of former NBA players, it's having to get used to losing to your dad in games of one-on-one.

Murray has beaten his father, but the elder Murray said, "I got mad and worked on my game and let him know he's not the boss yet."

The younger Thompson said, "Once I get stronger, I'll beat him."

The elder Thompson admits, "If he and I were to have a dunk contest right now, he beats me."

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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