About two weeks ago, if you'd asked me how good the Washington State men's basketball team was going to be next year, I would've told you I absolutely expected them to win the Pac-12 (aside: how cool does that sound?). They were losing virtually none of their scoring threats and they were the only team in the conference to bring every key component of their team back for the next season. The team should've been an immediate favorite to win the conference tournament and make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament.
Then, disaster struck. First, DeAngelo Casto ended weeks of speculation and rumors when he declared for the NBA Draft. Then, just about 72 hours later, Klay Thompson made an announcement from the "This Surprises Absolutely No One" Department when he declared he'd be entering the NBA Draft.
I've outlined my case on both of these young men before. The debate on Casto mainly circles around whether or not people believe his bachelor's degree and another year of adult maturity is of more use than turning professional now. As you should know since you are all obviously regular readers (or at least I tell myself that to boost my ego), I've addressed his issue multiple times and you know I'm perfectly fine with DeAngelo leaving now to take better care of his family, especially given his lack of funds for supporting his child and the child's mother for an entire school year. I've decided there's really nothing I can do to convince anyone differently. In Casto's case, people have a very distinct opinion on what is best for him and, like many very stubborn sports fans, there's nothing I can say that will get you to see it my way.
When Thompson declared on Monday, it came as little surprise to me and frankly, should have come as no surprise to anyone. Thompson showed this season that he is ready to play in the NBA and not being guaranteed a draft pick of any kind and my impression is that's the feeling he and his dad got. Speaking of Klay's old man, for those of you still clinging to the fact that Thompson didn't hire an agent should abandon that hope now. Mychal Thompson is so incredibly well connected in the NBA and knows enough about negotiations that Klay won't need an agent.
In fact what likely pushed his decision over the edge was looking ahead to the 2012 NBA Draft. If every player that is projected to be in that draft enters, Klay would likely fall out of the first round and possibly out of the draft altogether even if he improved a bit next season. Don't believe me you say? First of all, how dare you! Second of all, here are some of the names projected to be in the draft: Harrison Barnes, Austin Rivers, Jared Sullinger, Adonis Thomas, Mason Plumlee, Josh Smith, Jeremy Lamb and DeAndre Liggins - and those are just some of the names he's competing against. Regardless of whether the NBA plunges into a lock out when their Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in late June, this move is the best for Thompson. His best chance to be drafted and not have to fight for playing time off the bench and possibly ride the pine is to leave now. Like Casto, Thompson can always come back later and finish his bachelor's degree but Thompson's professional pedigree is such that he will likely be in the NBA for a long time and never have to worry about his degree.
Although we can focus on Thompson and Casto's departure, I think the focus needs to be shifted to something else: who will fill the void? Bone said Enquist, Motum and possibly newcomer DJ Shelton will step in for Casto. Perhaps the bigger worry is who fills in for Thompson. Not only did he put away over 20 points a game for the Cougars, there wasn't really any shooting guard depth behind him. Granted, the traditional shooting guard doesn't exist anymore but Thompson didn't really have a doppelganger on the bench that could come in and maybe not score as much but have little else change in terms of floor dynamic. Aden could step in but his shot selection was terrible at best last season.
Here's the starting line-up I envision for next season: Moore, Aden, Lodwick, Capers, and Motum - and that's frightening. Two players (Lodwick and Capers) aren't much of a scoring threat) and that lineup has virtually zero presence in the ever important low post. I figure DaVonte Lacy and Shelton will get heavy minutes off the bench and I've been hearing nothing but good things about Mychal Ladd's defensive prowess. But I'm still incredibly concerned about this basketball team.
In the interim though, all the best to Thompson and Casto. It was a pleasure to watch you grow and mature as basketball players over the last three years. I just wish your potential and goals of getting to the NCAA Tournament has come to fruition.
Who Cares Pick of the Week: I love golf. But I could honestly care less about the crappy tournaments between the majors.
The Heritage Classic Winner: Anthony Kim
Dunderhead of the Week: A different kind of award this week, mostly because I want to brag. I went from 1st Ave. and Mercer all the way to I-5 on Mercer St. without hitting a single red light. Not even a yellow light. There are nine traffic lights between that intersection and the freeway and anyone who is familiar with that street knows why it's called the Mercer Mess. I was pumping my fists as I got on the freeway, shouting and screaming in excitement.
+++++++sponsored by Greg Davis Sports Photography+++++++++
The 2010-11 athletic season continues to be here…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Baseball, track and field and rowing, just to name a few, are playing their 2011 seasons. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.