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January 2, 2012

Thompson tops among Shaq-tastic prospects

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SAN ANTONIO - The contractions were coming, but that didn't matter to Patrice Thompson. She wanted to watch the game.

The Orlando Magic were on television on that spring day in 1994, so it was a chance for Patrice to see her favorite player, second-year NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, have a moment on the national stage.

Hours later, she had a big moment of her own, delivering a son to the world - a son named Shaq Thompson.

Coincidence? Hardly.

"My mom was in labor and she was watching basketball," Thompson said. "That's where [my name] came from."

Patrice Thompson apparently wasn't the only mother so moved by O'Neal.

Shaquille O'Neal took the sports world by storm when he was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1993. The popularity of his name exploded with his game.

In 1993, it ranked No. 183 in baby names in the U.S., according to Babycenter.com. In 1994, it was No. 235. It has made the top 500 just once since.

Eighteen years later, there is a similar spike in the Rivals.com database of prospects. There were 19 players in the Class of 2012 named Shaq or a variation of Shaquille. This comes a year after 22 players in the Class of 2011 database had the name.

Many of the Shaqs are top notch, including two four-star selections in this year's Rivals250: Wide receiver Shaq Roland of Gaffney (S.C.) High and running back Shaquille Powell of Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman.

But none are as good as Shaq Thompson. The five-star player is the top safety in the Class of 2012 and the No. 7 overall prospect.

And even though the 6-2, 210-pound Thompson can physically overpower opponents in the secondary, he says he doesn't make a connection to his namesake with his play.

"I never compare myself to him," he said.

So much for a legacy.

And if he ever has a son of his own, Thompson said he won't necessarily keep up the tradition of naming him after his favorite player. But if he does, he knows for sure it won't be after Shaquille O'Neal.

Despite the name, Thompson said that Shaq never was his favorite player.

"I'd name him Kobe," he said.

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