December 28, 2017 10:29:21 AM
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Before they were Mississippi State Bulldogs of different sports, Keytaon Thompson and Lamar Peters were the 1-2 punch of a high school basketball team defending a state championship.
For the record, they successfully defended that championship, and did so in a way that showcased both of them. Neither of them are surprised that their former counterparts are thrown into high-leverage situations so early in their careers.
While Peters has started 20 games in his first two years at MSU and carved out a spot as a crucial bench player, Thompson has taken on the starting quarterback role as No. 24 MSU (8-4) takes on Louisville (8-4) in the TaxSlayer Bowl 11 a.m. Saturday (ESPN) at EverBank Field.
Both parties are enjoying watching the other's success.
"He's like your dream athlete," Peters said of Thompson. "That's the one you want: 4.0, always out of trouble, keeps his nose clean, a great people person, he'll just do whatever you want. He won't lose."
Peters said the two still hang out and play video games together whenever their schedules agree. Peters goes to every home football game he can and Thompson has been seen at Humphrey Coliseum in the past.
Peters was there for Thompson in the tumultuous nature of the last few weeks, given Thompson's impromptu insertion into the Egg Bowl, the loss that followed and the weeks after that of serving as the interim starting quarterback. Peters said he called Thompson after the Egg Bowl to encourage him.
"I know he's real good, for real, I think he was just put on the spot," Peters said. "He wasn't expecting that; that was a big step, it was the biggest game of the year.
"He says he's ready."
None of that surprises the man that coached them both on those basketball teams.
Brian Gibson is now the coach at Southern University-New Orleans, but only got there after winning consecutive state championships at Landry-Walker High School with a lot of help from Thompson and Peters.
When Gibson was told Thompson exuded calm in the events of recent weeks, he couldn't help but chuckle. He is, after all, the one that often called Thompson, "the quiet assassin."
"He's not just appearing that way, that has always been his demeanor," Gibson told The Dispatch.
Gibson is not surprised to see Peters get consistent playing time, either; he remembers well Peters scoring 27 points in the semifinals just to get Landry-Walker to the stage where it could defend its state championship.
Once it got there -- just like he is for MSU now -- Thompson took over.
The day's opponent, Salmen, did everything it could to contain Peters and forced a defensive slugfest in the process; through the will of Thompson and Peters, Landry-Walker found itself with a shot at the win in the closing minutes. In the final seconds, Peters hoisted a desperation heave from near the halfcourt line; it bounced off the backboard right into Thompson's path, who quickly put it back for the win and the state championship.
"What I remember about that game is those two guys keeping the rest of the team confident that we could do it," Gibson said. "It was a great memory as a team that we will have forever, but a lot of credit goes to those two guys because we had not played well offensively that whole night.
"It was fitting that those were the two guys that were able to make that happen."
Now they're doing the same for MSU, and they're about to get some help. Earlier this month, MSU signed Landry-Walker wide receiver Devonta "Whop" Jason to its Class of 2018.
Landry-Walker High School could be the engine of MSU athletics for years to come.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
1. Columbus basketball receives state championship rings HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Pair of MSU signees headed to junior college COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Heritage Academy's Berry impresses during summer baseball run HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Mullen embraces challenges of dream job at Florida COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Slive influence weighs heavily over successful SEC COLLEGE SPORTS