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.
He's baaaaaccccckkkkkkkkk!— WSU Men's Basketball (@WSUCougarMBB) January 18, 2020
Welcome home, @KlayThompson ‼️ #GoCougs | #K1ayGame pic.twitter.com/GDPWXsHFUs
If you’re going:
The is in town & here's what you need to know about tomorrow!— Washington State Athletics (@WSUCougars) January 18, 2020
Parking lots will open at 10am
Doors will open at 11:30am
The jersey retirement ceremony will happen at the start of halftime
Give yourself ample time and expect longer lines#GoCougs | #K1ayGame pic.twitter.com/rqxgmXiamH
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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’:
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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.
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The view from the islands.
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Gardner Minshew’s Road Trip
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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.