Even before the season, Stevie Thompson was thinking a lot about the months ahead, knowing his time with the Oregon State men’s basketball program was growing short.
His highlights have included several game-winning 3-pointers and last-second free throws, as well as a trip to the NCAA tournament.
But nothing lasts forever.
“One last time, one last chance of playing in front of college basketball fans,” Thompson said. “I’m just trying to make the most of every opportunity.”
Not just a final season in a college uniform, but also a final stretch playing with his brother, Ethan, and being coached on the same team by their father, Stephen, an OSU assistant.
Stevie Thompson is doing his part this season to help the Beavers (6-1) find success and make another run at the NCAA tournament after getting there in 2015-16, his freshman campaign.
The 6-foot-4 senior guard is averaging 17 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and a team-high 2.0 steals while playing a Pac-12 Conference-leading 35.9 minutes per contest.
He’s shooting 46.4 percent overall, 42.9 percent on 3-pointers and 68.8 at the free-throw line this season. All three are above his career averages.
Ethan, a sophomore in his first year as the team’s primary point guard and the Beavers’ third scoring option, has also played well. He’s averaging 11.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Both had strong performances last Saturday in Oregon State’s 101-77 home win against Missouri State.
They combined for 47 points, their most as an OSU tandem. Stevie had a team-high 25 points while shooting 10 of 14 from the floor, including five 3-pointers to break the program’s career record for deep balls. Ethan added 22 points, while shooting 8 of 9 from the field and 5 of 5 on 3s, plus nine rebounds and five assists.
In the process, the brothers helped the Beavers set a team record for 3-pointers in a game with 16.
They’ve been able to share the highs and lows in athletics together and with their father, a two-time All-American at Syracuse. Saturday was certainly a high point.
“It’s definitely special, especially last game, where both of us are playing really well, shooting the ball really well,” Stevie Thompson said. “He’s the one that’s really been training us. He’s really the reason why we have our basketball talent.”
The Thompson brothers — Stevie, 21, and Ethan, 19 — are early in their second season of college basketball together.
Playing on the same team is nothing new for them.
They played on AAU and city league basketball teams together, in addition to baseball and flag football squads while growing up in Gardena, California, about 15 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Ethan sometimes played up a grade level to be alongside his brother.
They played two years of basketball together at Bishop Montgomery High School. This school year, they’re living with each other for the first time since Stevie left for college in 2015.
“They’ve always wanted to play together and they’ve always wanted to be together,” Stephen Thompson said.
Added Ethan: “It’s been a dream for me and Stephen to play together in college, let alone high school. It’s even more special that my dad’s able to coach us. That was also a thing that we were talking about, too.
“It’s exciting, fun and we’re just blessed to all be in the same spot.”
A longtime coach, Oregon State’s Wayne Tinkle has seen senior players embrace the urgency of the end of their college careers while others don’t want to let go and are maybe afraid of what’s next.
The latter hasn’t been an issue this season.
“It’s great that Stevie’s playing at a really good clip right now,” the coach said. “(Senior center Gligorije Rakocevic) was before he got injured.”
Stevie Thompson has played well, building off a junior season in which he finished 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring at 15.8 points per game.
But the Beavers are looking for more from him, particularly on defense.
Tinkle says the team needs him to be “more of a force” on that end.
“Keeping the ball in front, getting to shooters,” he said. “It’s tough, because we’re relying on so much from him offensively.”
It’s no secret that defense will be the key if Oregon State can hold its own in the Pac-12 this season. That’s certainly been the case in Tinkle’s four-plus seasons leading the program.
Stevie Thompson learned to play defense at Bishop Montgomery, where that end of the floor was made a priority. The Knights only played man-to-man, so Thompson came to Oregon State needing to learn the concepts of zone defense.
“Now as a senior he understands it,” Stephen Thompson said. “He knows the slides, he knows where to move, he knows how to help others throughout the zone.”
He arrived in Corvallis with scoring and shooting abilities that have only improved in his time as a Beaver. But he needed to develop as a playmaker, getting teammates involved to ease defensive pressure off himself.
That experience came in a hurry when, as a sophomore, he played extensively at point guard. He shared those duties with his brother last season as well.
His dad says he’s worked hard to improve in all areas of his game.
“He’s always had that ability to make plays,” Stephen Thompson said. “I think his playmaking is very underrated because he’s such a good scorer and people see the shooting and scoring parts of his game as a strength.”
Tinkle saw Stevie Thompson’s game grow the past two years as he filled a need for the team. It added to what he was able to provide.
“His court vision has improved, and he’s just a dangerous weapon because he can shoot it and put it on the floor,” Tinkle said. “Now he can find the open guys as well.”