How About a Little Cougar Lovin’?

Yes, I am hoping that title attracts the bulk of 18-24 year old men to this blog. And it should. But for a different reason. I’m talking about my alma mater, Washington State University and our proudest sports product, Klay Thompson. The 11th overall pick in the NBA draft last year is having himself quite a rookie season. And people are finally starting to take notice.

Don’t ask me how this kid didn’t make the rookie-sophomore all-star game, or how he’s relatively unknown outside Pullman, WA and Oakland, CA. And definitely don’t ask Warriors coach Mark Jackson. After a slow start this season, all Thompson is doing in February is averaging 10 points per game off the bench. Not just any 10 though. He discovered his long-range stroke and is hitting treys like Chris Brown hits…nevermind. He’s on fire, is what I’m trying to say.

Thompson was arguably the biggest recruiting coup in Washington State basketball history. Hearing we would have the son of a former first overall pick suiting up got things buzzin’ in Pullman. And Klaymania got off to an early start, when He’s a freshmannnnnn became regular in Beasley Coliseum as Klay’s sweet stroke started enveloping the student section.

By his sophomore year, he was far and away the best player in crimson and gray on the court every single night. And by his junior year, he was dropping 40+ points in pre-season tournaments, averaging over 20 a game during conference play and on a short list of candidates to even get consideration for National Player of the Year awards. Yet he stayed relatively anonymous, staying away from the spotlight, patiently awaiting his name to eventually be called in last year’s June draft.

The day Thompson announced he was foregoing his senior season at WSU to jump to the NBA, it was honestly like a natural disaster had hit the campus. Our snowy little town of 30,000 people (22,000 students to give you a better idea…) might as well have just been hit by a deadly, contagious disease. Oh, wait that happened too. Anyway, nobody took the news of Thompson leaving harder than me. Sure, I was graduating but I still was looking forward to him leading my Cougs on a final NCAA run.

Then, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in June, I received an e-mail. Then another. And another. And finally one from my Mom with the press release attached: Warriors select Klay Thompson 11th overall in draft. As in the Golden State Warriors. As in the team that plays 25 minutes from my house. I was giddy. I ran down the halls of the ship looking for my fellow Cougs. I found them. And we celebrated this little stroke of luck.

Now that little stroke of luck is coasting on the big stroke of Thompson’s right arm. He’s quickly becoming one of the best overall rookies of the 2011 draft. He’s helping the Dubs stay afloat in their quest to return to the postseason. He’s trying to be a savior for a franchise which, save for 2006, has been a league doormat for years because of bad coaching, a lack of star power, and failed drafts.

But as Thompson continues to sink three’s and make pinpoint passes and play suffocating defense, Pullman and Oakland won’t be the only places noticing the gold mine the Warriors stumbled upon. Forget former Warrior Jeremy Lin and all his hype. Thompson is the real deal and he’s here to stay. I assure you, if his clutch, late-game heroics continue, the Warriors will find a way in eventually. And you’ll have a young, silent assassin to thank. Go Klay Thompson. And as always, Go Cougs.

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