Quiet by nature, Klay Thompson is not the type to brag about the exploits of his father.
The star of the Washington State men’s basketball team won’t talk about father Mychal Thompson being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1978 NBA draft unless someone else brings up the topic. Proud as he may be, Klay Thompson won’t tell you that his father played alongside Bill Walton, Magic Johnson and James Worthy, nor that he won two NBA titles.
What Klay Thompson might not even know is that one of his current WSU teammates’ dads has something that not even Mychal Thompson earned during his athletic career.
A gold medal.
“I’ve seen it a bunch,” Charlie Enquist said of his father’s crowning athletic achievement. “He only brings it out because people want to see it.”
Enquist, a 6-foot-10 sophomore from Edmonds, is having a breakthrough season as a key reserve for the Cougars this season. He’ll probably see extended minutes in his usual role setting screens for Thompson.
And his father, Olympic-gold-medal-winning rower Paul Enquist, couldn’t be prouder of him.
But when it comes to Paul Enquist’s shining moment? Charlie Enquist gets a little uncomfortable at the thought of it.
“I’ve seen his race probably 100 times, so I’m getting really sick of that,” he said with a chuckle during a phone interview. “But it’s cool.
“… Someone will find out dad’s a gold medalist, and mom will be like, ‘Do you want to see the race?’ Then she’ll get out the old VHS tape and fire up the VCR.”
These days, the younger Enquist is paving his own athletic path. While rowing was the chosen sport of his father and younger brother Oliver, a member of the University of Washington crew team, Charlie Enquist never quite fell in love with the sport.
“Just to sit backwards in a boat,” he said, “that didn’t turn me on.”
But basketball didn’t seem like a likely way to earn a college scholarship, either, especially at his father’s alma mater. Charlie Enquist spent his high school career — first at Edmonds-Woodway, then at King’s — convinced that he would never play NCAA Division I basketball.
A proud WSU alumnus, Paul Enquist often took his sons to Pullman for football games and introduced Charlie to the Cougars’ basketball coaches. Former head coach Tony Bennett invited him to join the team as a partial scholarship player, offering a one-year-on, one-year-off scholarship that would be re-evaluated after Enquist’s second year.
Charlie Enquist spent his freshman year as a redshirt, taking his lumps while going against Australian behemoth Aron Baynes in practice. Last season, Enquist played in 11 games, scoring 11 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking six shots in 53 minutes of action while paying his own tuition.
When Ken Bone replaced Bennett as coach last spring, the Cougars’ new coach offered to put Enquist back on scholarship.
That’s when Enquist finally realized he could play at the Pac-10 level.
“That was a great sense of accomplishment,” he said. “I worked hard, and to be able to do it meant a lot.”
Enquist’s confidence only swelled when he entered preseason practices this fall and got an earful from the coaches.
“I was like: ‘I’m getting yelled at, so I must be doing well,’” he said.
Enquist has appeared in every game this season, averaging 11.4 minutes, 1.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game as one of the Cougars’ top reserves. His main job, of course, is to set screens for Thompson, who ranks among the nation’s leading scorers.
“Charlie’s a very intelligent player,” WSU’s Bone said last week. “He understands our system pretty well already; he’s a guy who understands what we’re trying to do. He doesn’t try to play out of his element.”
Enquist’s intelligence on the court extends to the classroom, where the Mechanical and Materials Engineering major has found a way to balance lab work and extensive studying with his practice schedule.
That, more than what Enquist has done on the court, is what makes his father the most proud.
“Not only because it’s my alma mater, but he’s also taking the same major as I did,” said Paul Enquist. “I know how hard it is to keep up with both.”
Paul Enquist also fancied himself a basketball player back in the day. After playing basketball, football and tennis at Ballard High School in the early 1970s, he went to Pullman, inquired about walking on to the Cougars’ basketball team, but never got a chance to try out. The 6-foot-6 Enquist decided to try crew, fell in love with the sport, and went to the 1984 Olympics as a member of the United States double skulls team. He and teammate Brad Lewis won the 2,000-meter event, earning a gold medal.
Paul Enquist swells with pride when talking about the achievements of his 21-year-old son. He also knows that Charlie won’t brag about athletic exploits — either his own, or those of his medal-winning father.
“He really stays out of the limelight,” Paul Enquist said of his son, who is the oldest member of the WSU basketball team. “He backs away from all that, and we’ve really noticed that now that he’s at Washington State. … He’s pretty shy.”
When word got around the Cougars’ locker room that Charlie Enquist’s father earned an Olympic medal, the third-year sophomore blushed and took his share of ribbing.
“Our strength coach (Marco Candido) gives me the most crap,” he said. “He calls me Gold Medal and says I’ll never live up. He’s kidding, though.”
In the eyes of Paul Enquist, son Charlie has certainly lived up — both as an athlete and student.
“I’m proud of him for enjoying his success,” Paul Enquist said. “I had mine in another sport, and it’s nice to see him have an experience like that. It’s been fun.”
Scott M. Johnson writes for The Herald.