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Know Your KU History: Calvin Thompson

How many KU players have played on a sub-.500 team and in a Final Four?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

You’d think that the greater Kansas City area would be a more fruitful recruiting ground for the University of Kansas. Over the years, the names that come to mind are Wayne Simien, Brandon Rush, and Travis Releford. If you step back even further, that number dwindles quite dramatically. If you dismiss walk-ons like Connor Teahan and guys like Greg Gurley who never reached their potential, the list gets pretty sparse. Calvin Thompson from Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kansas is one of the few Kansas Citians who made a big impact at KU.

The 6’6” shooting guard came to Lawrence in the fall of 1982 and began to make an immediate impact. He averaged a decent 7.9 points per game to go along with his averages of 1.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds per contest. He did this is just over 21 minutes per game, a pretty impressive number for freshmen at the time.

Perhaps the reason that a raw freshman was getting so many minutes was the fact that the team was no good. This was Ted Owens’ last season at the helm of the Jayhawks, and KU finished the season 13-16 overall and 4-10 in the Big Eight, good enough for seventh in the league, and bad enough to get Owens fired. That 1982-83 season was the last time that a Jayhawk squad had a losing record overall, and KU has had only one other conference season under the .500 mark since then (The probation year of 1988-89 when KU went 6-8 in the Big Eight).

But back to Calvin Thompson. When Larry Brown came to KU, Thompson immediately figured into his plans. The sophomore from KCK played more minutes (about 25 on average), but increased his scoring output dramatically. Thompson poured in 11.3 points per game, and KU got better as well. The team went 22-10 and 9-5 in 1983-84 and returned to the NCAA tournament.

Things really started cooking in 1984-85. A freshman by the name of Danny Manning joined the squad and KU improved to 26-8 overall and 11-3 in conference play, earning a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament along the way. Thompson upped his numbers even more in that junior campaign. Now starting for KU, Thompson played nearly 30 minutes per game and averaged 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

The fruits of all the labor came about in Thompson’s senior season of 1985-86. With Manning and Ron Kellogg flourishing beside him, the Jayhawks returned to the Final Four for the first time in 12 years. That senior season, Thompson’s stats looked almost identical to those of his junior campaign. After losing in the national semifinal to Duke, Calvin Thompson was drafted into the NBA by the New York Knicks in the fourth round.

He never played in the NBA and today is coaching in and directing youth basketball associations in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area.