The Washington State Cougars have no seniors on their roster this season. They do have eight juniors, five of whom see more than 20 minutes of playing time. That means in two years, the Cougar roster will undergo a major renovation.
That can be toned down if the Pac-10's leading scorer, Klay Thompson, decides to go to the NBA after this season.
Fact: The Cougars have not reached the NCAA Tournament while Thompson has been a member of the Cougar roster the two previous seasons.
Opinion: The Cougars will not make the tournament this season.
Klay Thompson is not the problem. Believe me when I say I'm not trying to run Thompson out of town. He's already individually put up career numbers that have him ranked amongst the greatest players to ever put on a Cougar uniform.
Last night, during a 79-70 loss to No. 12 Arizona, Thompson scored 30 points, which moved him into third place on the all-time WSU scoring list with 1,568 points.
However, it was the fourth time this season that the junior has scored 30 or more in a game. The Cougars have just one win in those four games.
I've watched this team rely on Thompson for too long, dating back to last season. No moment stands out more to me than during a loss to Oregon in last season's Pac-10 Tournament.
The Cougars were down 82-80 with 11 seconds left, and then-freshman Reggie Moore held the ball, looking only for Thompson. However, Thompson was never able to shake free the Oregon defender, leaving Moore to hoist a 30-foot prayer that fell short as the buzzer sounded, effectively ending Washington State's season.
This play came after a timeout. Where was plan B? Plan C? Did Cougar head coach Ken Bone think that Oregon was going to let Thompson get the ball with ease?
Thompson's numbers have improved in literally every statistical category from last season, proving that he's continuing to grow. But don't you think the NBA, without the distractions of academics, would help improve his game more rapidly and against better competition?
There's no telling where the Cougars would be this year without Thompson. They've already surpassed last year's win total of 16 with 17 victories and at least five guaranteed games left, including the Pac-10 Tournament.
But it's scary to think that in two years, only four current players could still be here that right now see at least six minutes a game.
Sophomores Reggie Moore and Brock Motum, along with freshmen Patrick Simon and Dre' Winston Jr., combine to average just 21 points a game. However, Moore and Winston Jr. are both 6'1" point guards, and Motum and Simon are both over 6'8" and like to shoot perimeter jump shots. Point being, these four players will never be seen on the court at the same time.
If Thompson chooses to go to the NBA, questions will arise about this Cougar basketball team regarding the scoring. Where will it come from? Why not answer that question sooner than later, or at least get an idea of what you're working with?
Junior college transfer Faisal Aden was brought in specifically to replace Thompson's scoring had Thompson decided to go to the NBA following last season.
At Hillsborough Community College, Aden averaged nearly 23 points a game. This year, he's scoring just under 13 per game, including just over 10 a game in conference play.
Obviously, if Thompson was absent from this team, the shots would be there for others to take. But they're not, and if Thompson stays, they won't be there next year either, which will stunt this program's growth to be a yearly Pac-10 title contender.
If Klay Thompson stays for his senior season, enjoy the ride, as he will have the opportunity to dazzle Cougar nation and place himself on top as the Cougars' all-time leading scorer. But in two years, when he leaves, along with other key players such as DeAngelo Casto, Marcus Capers, Abe Lodwick and Faisal Aden, don't look so shocked when the Cougars take a major step back and start the rebuilding process.
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