Klay Thompson returned to Santa Margarita Catholic High School last month, back to where he was just another teenager 10 years ago.
He returned as one of the biggest stars in professional basketball, a distinction that was born when he set an NBA record by scoring 37 points in a quarter two years ago and continued swelling as he helped the Golden State Warriors to an NBA title in 2015 and then scored 60 points in just three quarters of play in December.
Those accomplishments paved the way for the school to retire the No. 1 jersey Thompson wore at Santa Margarita and hang it from the rafters inside the gymnasium where he played from 2004 to 2008.
Thompson, who will turn 27 on Feb. 8, took advantage of a short break in Golden State’s schedule to fly in from the Bay Area and attend the ceremony.
“It’s a huge deal for me,” Thompson said to a small group of reporters prior to the ceremony. “I enjoyed every year, from 14 to 18 years old. It was a lot of time to grow as a young kid, young man, and a great place to do it in this institution. Not only athletically, but academically, spiritually, everything, and I learned a ton about myself.”
Thompson then stepped on stage and spoke to a large group of students, as well as a number of faculty members and former teammates, letting them know how lucky he was to attend Santa Margarita, and how luck they are as well.
“All of you guys should be very, very thankful you go to this school. It is one of the best in the country. Not only are you allowed to grow athletically, like I did, but spiritually, academically and you’ll make some friends that will last you a lifetime. That’s why it’s good having a lot of my teammates here I had from ’08, because you grow up, get old like us, you have conflicting schedules and can’t see each other as much as we did when we were 14 or 18 years old, when we’d see each other every day. So, enjoy this time now because it goes by really fast.”
Thompson then turned his attention to Jerry DeBusk, who coached the boys’ basketball program at Santa Margarita for 20 years before retiring in 2012.
“You ran a very tight ship here. You normally don’t get that in high school. There are a lot of knuckleheads in high school. … You ran a great program here that prepared me, not only for Pac-10 ball, but prepared me for what I was going to face in the NBA, and I really mean that. You really instilled discipline. Not only with basketball, but off the court we had to manage our time.”
Thompson finished off by thanking his teammates, many of whom showed up for the ceremony, and reminding the current students to enjoy their remaining time at Santa Margarita.
“I had such a great time at Santa Margarita. There’s trying times, obviously, for everybody. You might get a bad grade in a class or you might not make friends like you want to, but I’m telling you, it’s all going to work out, and it’s going to prepare you for what you’re going to face in the future. This is a great school, so enjoy it while it lasts everybody. Do all the extra stuff that you can.”