Ailene Voisin, sports columnist
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  • Randy Pench /

    Chase Tapley relaxes after his predraft workout with the Kings. He became the first San Diego State player to compete in four straight NCAA Tournaments.

  • Randy Pench /

    Chase Tapley gets a high-five during his predraft workout at the Kings' practice facility. Tapley, who is missing from most mock NBA drafts, said he is willing to travel anywhere to play professionally.

  • Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Tapley returns home seeking a shot

Published: Thursday, Jun. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 - 5:38 pm

Chase Tapley shrugs. He has no illusions about his prospects in the upcoming NBA draft. He smiles. He has no problem with the possibility of playing overseas. He laughs. He anticipates auditioning again next month at the Las Vegas Summer League and pushing, again and again, for the upset.

He wants a job.

He wants a chance.

"Shooting guard, point guard, backup shooting guard and point guard," the San Diego State senior said Wednesday after working out for the Kings. "I'll do anything it takes."

If necessary – if it meant earning an NBA paycheck – the former Sacramento High School standout would hold his nose and forgive the Lakers. That would be a tough one, though. Tapley's favorite player was Chris Webber and his favorite color was purple. His worst memory of Sleep Train Arena is Game 7 of Kings-Lakers, 2002.

His fondest recollection? That remains epic.

In the 2008 CIF Division III state championship game, Tapley erupted for 35 points and Santa Margarita's Klay Thompson for 37, scoring in every conceivable manner. Threes from the corners. Jumpers from the wings. Layups in transition. Offensive rebounds. They answered field goal for field goal until, finally, the out-of-towners strolled out of the building with the title.

A few months later, the 6-foot-3 Tapley committed to play for Steve Fisher – Webber's coach at Michigan – at San Diego State.

"A lot of people were surprised that I didn't go the Pac-10," the former Dragons standout recalled, "but coach Fisher stuck with me when I broke my leg (in his sophomore season). He was the only one who came to the hospital to see me. I never forgot that."

Tapley was more than grateful. In some respects, his four college seasons were transformational. Fisher can sell more than the San Diego climate when he recruits these days, partly because of contributions from Tapley and former Aztec Kawhi Leonard.

This past season alone, the Aztecs, who begged for relevance and attention during the pre-Fisher era, sold out every home game. Tapley, who became the first player in school history to compete in four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, experienced other firsts as well. True story: The summer before his sophomore season, he and Leonard donned wet suits and enrolled in a kayak/surfing class.

"We were at the beach every day," he said, laughing. "It was pretty crazy. Someday we're going to look back and say, 'Man, can you believe we took surfing?' All that water … and I never could stand up on the board."

As Fisher noted during a cellphone conversation later Wednesday, his adventuresome little guard was considerably more accomplished with a basketball. Tapley earned a starting position within a matter of months. He formed a potent combination with the 6-7 Leonard, now a star with the San Antonio Spurs, overcame a broken hand, and continued adapting to various roles, lineups, expectations.

"Chase helped us become a team that sometimes is talked about as a top-10 program," Fisher said, "and he improved every year. If you start looking around for someone who will do whatever a coach asks – set screens, take a foul – and who can catch and shoot with the best of them, that's Chase. And he's just a terrific young man."

Maturity has never been an issue. Even as a teen, Tapley seemed more like an adult. Today, he speaks openly about the responsibility of co-parenting his 9-month-old son, Cayden, with Aztecs basketball player Kiyana Stamps, while completing his sociology degree and matching Leonard's gym rat reputation.

Admittedly, though, Tapley, whose thin beard only enhances his soft, boyish features, could never be confused with Adonis. "He needs to chisel himself up," Fisher said, "and he has to continue to grow. He's not a point guard. His ball skills can get better. But everybody in today's world is looking for guys like Danny Green."

In a quiet moment Wednesday, Tapley, who is omitted from most mock drafts, glanced around the practice facility and smiled. He will travel anywhere for work, but it felt good to be home. Like other Kings fans, he remembers where he was (in his apartment) and how he heard that the team was staying in Sacramento.

"I was on Facebook," he said, "and I was like, 'Yes!' I would have been so sad if the Kings left. They have always been a big part of my life."

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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