I was fortunate enough to be on the campus of the University of Washington on Sunday night because it was the first time I've seen the Wazzu men's hoop team live all season. The only terrible thing about Sunday's 80-69 victory over the Huskies was that I had to watch the Cougars in a building with so much purple it's still burned into my retinas.
Every person I've talked to has a different favorite play from that game. Most of them involved DeAngelo Casto's continuation foul call, Abe Lodwick elevating for threes, Lorenzo Romar's technical, the Huskies' Venoy Overton fouling out. I have a decidedly different one. In the second half, Klay Thompson came running off a baseline screen and caught a pass near the Husky bench. Darnell Gant was able to get through and stay on Thompson. Thompson held the ball low, a couple little flinches of a ball fake and he got what he wanted: Gant took maybe a quarter of a step back. That's all the opening Thompson needed, he elevated and drilled a three. Same situation a few minutes later. Thompson works the same little fakes but Gant doesn't bite this time. He's learned his lesson. So Thompson throws it to Moore to reset the play.
Odd plays to consider your favorites you say. I'll give you my reasons why. In the exact same situation, twice, Thompson showed us how far he's come. When he got the bite he wanted the first time, he rose up and buried a long three pointer, something he would've gotten in his own head about even last year. The second time, he knew it wasn't there so rather than try and force it, he did the right thing and gave it to his point guard to reset.
It was then, right as the horn sounded and the Cougar victory became official that it occurred to me. Thompson had scored 26 points and I think I can speak for everyone when we say we didn't even blink. It's commonplace at this point. And combined with those two plays I talked about earlier, I came to a startling and sad realization: he's ready.
It's not sad for Thompson. This has been his goal for a long time, to play in the big show. It's sad for the rest of us. I don't think there is any debate at this point Thompson is the finest player to ever come through Washington State. It has been an absolute joy and pleasure to watch him grow and mature over these last three years. He's gone from an incredibly raw and talented freshman to the junior we see before our eyes now.
If Thompson does choose to leave, the greatest tragedy of all would be that he never made it to the NCAA Tournament. Part of me wants him to come back purely for that reason because next year, this team could legitimately win the conference title. Next year's edition of the team could become a legendary one in that school's history. I'd make trips over practically every weekend to see such an incredible team.
However, there's a problem with this plea: it's selfish. We've known all along Thompson was destined to play in the Association and we knew when he was ready, he'd be gone. Maybe we all tried to plug our ears and close our eyes and think that it couldn't happen. But, at the end of the day, Thompson has to do what's best for him. He doesn't owe this university or their fans anything. In fact, it might even be us that owe him for an incredible three year run at WSU.
I don't want Thompson to leave. I'd never be able to see another Tray for Klay, no more sniping from anywhere on the court. No more surprise, where-the-hell-did-that-come-from? dunks. No more of the famous Klay pout face (even if that always occurred in a bad situation, I'll still miss it). I want to see him in a Cougar uniform as long as possible but I've come to terms with the fact that he will probably be gone.
It wasn't until 25 minutes after the game was over on Sunday that Thompson finally emerged from the locker room. Most of the other reporters had long since disappeared, all dangerously close to their deadline so it was just me, a reporter from the Associated Press and one other writer. He'd been in the locker room for nearly half an hour, much longer than any player had stayed. One of the coaches whispered on the way out he was talking to Wazzu men's hoop head coach Ken Bone. I'll never know the content of that speech and we didn't ask him afterwards but I think we can all assume what it was about.
I want Klay to come back. But, if he thinks he's ready to leave and make it big in the NBA, that's fine by me to. I'll miss you dearly Klay. Best of luck to you. And whatever team drafts you; I'll be the first to buy your jersey. Unless the Thunder take you.
Last Week: 5-4
This won't go well for Oregon State.
Arizona 85, Oregon State 67
GO SUN DEVILS!
Arizona State 71, Oregon 67
This is turning out to be a hell of a match-up. Should be a dandy.
Washington 91, UCLA 84
Washington State needs this win. I think they get it.
Washington State 74, USC 65
Yippee for a junky rivalry.
Stanford 67, California 62
And in the crap-tastic game of the year.
Oregon State 67, Arizona State 54
Arizona 81, Oregon 68
Washington should finish the season with a sweep.
Washington 78, USC 70
But the Cougars won't.
UCLA 79, Washington State 69
Obscure Pick of the Week: Not really obscure but hey, a couple of northwest teams!
Seattle 67, Idaho 59
Dunderhead of the Week: Driving home from the WSU/UW game Sunday night, the person who decided to drive 43 MPH in the fast lane on the 520 bridge. Ah yes, nice to see Seattle driving stereotypes isn't true.
And, of course, John Buccigross
+++++++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! Men's hoop, women's hoop and baseball, 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.