Klay Thompson played his first Division I basketball game in the Los Angeles area Thursday night, and it was his first time home since moving to Pullman to play for Washington State. Family and friends were on hand to see the young man play the game he's truly passionate about—basketball.
Though it's been chronicled almost to an extreme, in the case of Klay, the Thompson family tree is a big part of who he is.
One of the most visible similarities between Klay and his father Mychal is their connection with basketball.
Mychal Thompson was the first player picked in the 1978 NBA draft by the Portland Trailblazers. Coming off an impressive collegiate career at the University of Minnesota, Thompson holds the distinction of being the first foreign-born player to be a No. 1 selection.
Klay's father enjoys talking basketball these days. Mychal provides color and insight on radio for his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers. The man is a natural.
It shouldn't be a surprise that Mychal simply beams when talking about his two favorite things, family and basketball.
Thursday night was a confluence of schedules making it possible for Klay to have his father on hand to see him play. Though there were many interruptions for Mychal to endure—including questions posed by this writer—nothing distracted him from enjoying the pleasure of seeing young Klay shoot some hoops.
Clearly Mychal loves to talk about Klay almost as much as seeing him play. He is proud that Klay made the right choice about where to attend college. Washington State is proving to be the right place for him to be.
Growing up in the Portland area before moving to Southern California, Klay is no stranger to the unique features of living in the Northwest. That includes quite a bit less sunshine than he found daily living in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. The change of seasons isn't something new to the young man, just something he hasn't been around for a few years.
College life in Pullman suits Klay just fine. Dorm life, attending classes, and just hanging out occasionally come naturally to the freshman.
Then there's playing Pac-10 basketball. Coach Tony Bennett and his staff saw the potential in Thompson when he was playing at Santa Margarita Catholic High long before anyone else. Cougars basketball fans are more than happy about that fact.
Klay came to WSU with the promise of honing his skills both on and off the court. That promise is becoming a reality. Thompson is leading the Cougs in scoring with 13 points per game. He has started all 26 games opposite senior Taylor Rochestie at the guard position.
Does Klay have game?
Thompson is a graceful pure shooter. Inside or outside, he makes offense look so easy anyone could do it. Klay is converting a blistering 43 percent of his three-point attempts this season. He has yet to miss a free throw as a college player, converting all 24 attempts.
Though Klay isn't afraid to take the ball to the hoop, he is skilled at creating separation to get off his graceful jumper. That accounts for the relatively few trips to the foul line.
Defense is the dominant phase of the game coached by Bennett and his staff. Once again, Klay has proved his skills by leading the Cougs in steals, averaging one a game. He's second on the team in rebounding and despite still working to learn defense at the Division I level, has only fouled out of one game.
Taking everything into consideration, Klay's father isn't the only one happy about the fine fit WSU has proved to be for the freshman. Coach Bennett and the rest of Cougar Nation are proud to call him part of the WSU extended family.
Klay Thompson of WSU (AP Photo A. Latham)