OAKLAND – Klay Thompson is no NBA general manager, but he doesn’t shy away from assessing college talent – particularly that of Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield.
Thompson is a huge fan of Hield, the Oklahoma guard who is lighting up the NCAA Tournament while leading the Sooners into the Final Four this weekend in Houston.
“He’ll be a great scorer,” Thompson told CSNBayArea.com on Monday. “He works so hard. He’ll be a tenacious defender. He’s physically gifted. He’s going to help somebody. He’s going to make a big impact.
“Whatever team drafts him in the Top 10, well, personally, for me, I think he’s top-three, at least a top-five pick,” Thompson added. “But if he slips into that six to 10 range, some team is going to get really lucky.”
There is cultural connection here. Hield was born in Freeport, in the Bahamas and did not move to the United States until 2010, when he was in high school. Thompson has Bahamian roots, as his father, retired NBA star Mychal Thompson, was born in the Bahamas and has a street in Nassau named after him.
Klay Thompson told CSN Bay Area two weeks ago that he expected Oklahoma to not only reach the Final Four but to win the national championship. Furthermore, that he would like to see Hield become the greatest-ever Bahamian basketball player, surpassing his father.
Hield through four tournament games is averaging 29.3 points. He’s shooting 56.7 percent, including 47.5 percent beyond the 3-point stripe. Hield is drawing comparisons to another sweet-shooting, high-scoring tournament player: Stephen Curry, Thompson’s Warriors teammate.
When Hield scored 37 points – including eight 3-pointers – Saturday as Oklahoma ousted Oregon to advance to the Final Four, Thompson caught the Buddy Show on TV.
“That was ridiculous,” Thompson said. “And he’s doing it so effortlessly. I’ve tried to tell people that he’s the next big thing. He makes me proud to see a guy coming from a little island in the Bahamas doing what he’s doing.”
Hield and the No. 2-seed Sooners face Villanova, another No. 2 seed, in semifinal game Saturday in Houston.