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Klay Thompson returns to Pullman for jersey retirement

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LA Clippers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Back in 2008, the WSU men’s basketball team was coming off a Sweet 16 appearance under Tony Bennett, and Klay Thompson arrived on campus as one of six scholarship freshman. The team still had Aron Baynes, Taylor Rochestie, Caleb Forrest and Daven Harmeling, veteran contributors from the previous season to varying degrees.

The veterans were well-regarded, but the incoming freshman class was the highlight. This was the first real recruiting haul for men’s basketball under Tony Bennett. The previous season, the team only welcomed Abe Lodwick and Charlie Enquist as freshman. Now, with the a bunch of players lost to graduation, the new freshman were the future of WSU basketball.

And Klay Thompson turned out to the be the gem.

I covered the men’s basketball team for The Daily Evergreen that season, my last as a student. DeAngelo Casto was coming to Pullman from my hometown. Michael Harthun was highly-regarded. James Watson and Marcus Capers were “long and athletic” before that phrase garnered eye rolls around here.

But Klay was different. He was somewhat overlooked. He didn’t get an offer from the USC Trojans and the quiet kid whose father was a former first overall pick in the NBA Draft had played with Kobe Bryant in pickup games.

I remember sitting in some cubicle in the SID office one evening interviewing this 18-year-old skinny kid for a story. He was quiet and had short answers, but they were still insightful. He mentioned how he got used to taking plays off in high school and how you can’t do that anymore or coach Bennett will sit you on the bench. Honestly, that’s all I remember from our conversation.

When the media wanted to interview him before practice, he’d purposely pretend not to hear the SID and kept shooting. When he finally did come over, he looked like all he wanted to do was be on the court. Who could blame him? He was only a freshman, so he was easily forgiven.

But on the court, we soon found out what we had in Klay:

After I graduated, I’d see him mature more and more each season, both as a person and player. He showed incredible maturity when he took the mic before that UCLA game and apologized for his pot bust that landed him a one-game suspension. I saw a kid become comfortable with the media. He didn’t have a Ph.D. in media relations, but he seemed much more relaxed. That comes with age.

I’ve never been a big NBA fan, and I still don’t watch the league. But when Klay and the Golden State Warriors were making title runs this past half decade, it became must-watch TV for me. I loved watching Klay blossom into an NBA star. He makes it fun to watch, and his buddy Steph Curry ain’t too bad either.

Klay makes his return to Pullman for today’s jersey retirement, and the 10,000 in attendance will surely welcome him with a roar. The one-time skinny, shy freshman who was insanely talented at basketball is now a grown man with millions of dollars who is still insanely talented at basketball.

And we get to call him our own.

If you’re going:

Basketball

‘He means to much to the Cougar nation’: Former teammates, opponents reflect on Klay Thompson’s career at Washington State | The Spokesman-Review
Marcus Capers has told the story before, the story of how he ended up with the ‘0’ and Klay Thompson ended up with the ‘1’:

Hot ticket: Washington State could draw as many as 10,000 for Klay Thompson jersey retirement | The Spokesman-Review
Not since Thompson’s third and final college season have the Cougars drawn 10,000 fans to Pullman, but the occasion of his jersey retirement could bring that many to the 11,600-seat venue for a 1 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks) tipoff against Oregon State.

Top-25 takedowns: Looking back at Washington State’s ranked wins over the years | The Spokesman-Review
With Thursday’s 72-61 upset win over No. 8 Oregon, Washington State avoided 20 consecutive losses to teams ranked in the top-10 in the Associated Press rankings, and the Cougars won their first top-10 game since 2007, when they knocked off Arizona under Tony Bennett.

One day, One Klay, Cougs to Host OSU - Washington State University Athletics
The Cougs look for the Oregon school swee with the Beavers coming to town Saturday.

Sharpshooting Washington State beats No. 8 Oregon for first top-10 victory in 13 years | The Spokesman-Review
The Cougars hadn’t knocked off a top-10 team in 13 years – not since the 2007 squad beat No. 7 Arizona 77-73 in overtime. Since then, WSU basketball teams coached by Tony Bennett, Ken Bone and Ernie Kent had 19 opportunities to pull off the same feat and failed each time.

Football

John Blanchette: Nick Rolovich’s Apple computation adds to his growing popularity at Washington State | The Spokesman-Review
It took 25 minutes for Nick Rolovich’s introduction as Washington State’s 33rd head football coach to crest on Thursday afternoon.

Roll on: ‘Hard work’ up next for new Washington State coach Nick Rolovich, Cougar football players | The Spokesman-Review
Analea Rolovich and her husband took in the first half of Washington State’s basketball upset of No. 8 Oregon Thursday night. The two showed up a few minutes in, walked the perimeter of the floor, shook some hands and waved to a larger-than-usual crowd at Beasley Coliseum as they were escorted to their courtside seats.

Washington State, Nick Rolovich set to open Pac-12 play with riveting matchup at Oregon State | The Spokesman-Review
The game that determined the Pac-12 North’s final bowl participant will be the one that opens up the 2020 Pac-12 Conference season for Washington State.

Nick Rolovich officially introduced as new Washington State head football coach | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
The view from the islands.

Rolo says ‘mahalo’ to Hawaii in introductory press conference at Washington State
Local media attending Thursday’s press conference reported that several of Rolovich’s former assistants in Manoa were in attendance.

Nick Rolovich anticipates bringing at least four Hawaii assistant coaches to Washington State | The Spokesman-Review
Four members of Nick Rolovich’s coaching staff at Hawaii were in Pullman Thursday afternoon for the coach’s introductory press conference at Washington State, and not just to support the man leading the new era of Cougar football.

Gardner Minshew’s Road Trip

On the road again: Former Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew logs miles, makes memories with cross-country road trip | The Spokesman-Review
Rocking his signature jorts, a tank top with a collar from Todd’s Tanks and his iconic ‘Fu Minshew’ facial hair, Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback announced his #MilesWithMinshew RV tour on Jan. 6.