Kay Thompson is a lethal outside shooter. He can make double-digit leads evaporate in seconds, and his range seemingly extends to the upper deck. If it weren’t for Steph Curry, Klay would hold the NBA record for most 3-pointers in a season.
But to classify Klay as just a pure shooter is to undersell his overall game—most notably, his defense. The 6-foot-7, 215-pound Thompson is a defensive nightmare. You can put him on nearly any opposing player, and he’ll stick to him like a parasite. Thompson narrowly missed being named one of the ten players on the 2015-2016 NBA All-Defensive Team, finishing twelfth overall in the voting.
At a recent media availability, Thompson was asked when he first realized he had a knack for defense.
“Probably like my sophomore year of high school. My coach would put me on point guards,” Thompson said. “And at that time, Ben Howland told me I could move my feet, and that meant a lot to hear from the head coach of UCLA.”
Howland—now the head coach at Mississippi State—was then the head coach of UCLA. Receiving praise from the coach of a historic program like UCLA obviously had a big impact on a young Thompson.
Thompson then went on to detail one of his proudest high school hoops moments—locking down Brandon Jennings. “I played well against Brandon Jennings. Brandon was the No. 1 player in the country for our group. He could really go. When I played well against Brandon, I knew I could be a good defender.”
Thompson attended Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. Jennings played at Dominguez High School in Compton, California, before he transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia for his junior and senior seasons. But even as a freshman and sophomore at Dominguez, Jennings was bound for big things. He was named the state freshman of the year in 2005. Having a good game against Jennings likely did wonders for a young Thompson’s confidence.
But Jennings wasn’t the only talented player Thompson went up against in high school. He also played opposite DeMar DeRozan and James Harden. While Thompson’s athleticism, length and effort are keys to his defensive prowess, there’s no doubt that growing up going against that type of competition also helped his development. Check out Thompson’s high school highlights below:[youtube video=”PwSRTkySY4Y”]