For Klay Thompson, Success Is in NBA Genes, Dreams
Klay Thompson has pedigree and good genes on his side.
The rest, the talent, the hard-work, the results are up to him.
Thompson, the junior guard at Washington State, heads into Sunday night's rivalry matchup against No. 17 Washington as one of the top offensive players in the nation. He leads the Pac-10 in scoring at 22.2 points a game and is ranked ninth nationally.
Graceful and agile and with a definite scorer's mentality, Thompson looks bound to follow his father's footsteps into the NBA.
Thompson's father is Mychal Thompson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers. Mychal Thompson had a 12-year NBA career with the Blazers and the Lakers, where he won two NBA titles. He is now a member of the Lakers' broadcast team for 710 ESPN.
The athletic legacy doesn't stop there. His mother Julie played volleyball at the University of San Francisco. His older brother Mychel plays basketball at Pepperdine and his younger brother Trayce was chosen in the second round of the 2009 Major League Baseball draft by the Chicago White Sox and is playing minor league ball.
"I feel like I know what to expect at the next level because of my dad," Klay said Wednesday. "He's been there, he's been through it all and when I have questions about the game, I always turn to dad because I have a source that's close. He prepared me to play at the collegiate level."
But Thompson has done plenty of work on his own. Thompson has improved his defense, become a more aggressive rebounder and brought variety to his offensive game, said coach Ken Bone.
"He's midway through his junior year and he continues to grow as a player," Bone said. "He's finding ways, beyond just shooting to help his team be successful."
Bone said Thompson has become a "solid on-ball defender."
One of the most overlooked parts of his game is his passing.
"Last year, I really didn't know him as well and I felt like he was putting some pressure on himself," said Bone, whose team went 15-16 in his first season in Pullman. "This year, I don't sense that all. He's comfortable."
It's easy to be more comfortable when you've found success. The Cougars are sitting in fourth place in the conference at 4-4, 14-6 overall, looking for a big win over the Huskies and a season-closing rally to get into the NCAA tournament.
"We need this win on our resume," Thompson said of Sunday night's game. "If we want to make it to the NCAA, it's very important."
Thompson agreed with his coach that he has improved as a "playmaker."
"I'm not just a shooter-scorer any more," Thompson said. "I want to pass and create for my teammates and it's opening up my game."
Washington State was the only Pac-10 school that offered Thompson a scholarship. Previous coach Tony Bennett recruited Thompson, who was born in Oregon. He sold Thompson on ample and early playing time and the ability to play in the Pac-10.
While last year was a struggle -- the Cougars finished last in what was universally considered a down year in the Pac-10 -- Thompson sees the possibility for his team, which returned five starters and has wins this year over Gonzaga, Mississippi and Baylor.
"I think we have a chance to run the table (in the Pac-10)," Thompson said. "There are no teams head and shoulders above everybody else. Washington is the front-runner, but I think every team is beatable."
Thompson said he has not made a decision about whether he will enter the NBA Draft in April or come back for one more college season.
"I'm able to put it out of my mind when I play," Thompson said. "It's not that big of a distraction for me. It will be at the end of the season, no doubt. When the season ends, that's a big decision for me. I'm going to examine my options and see what my stock looks like after the season ends."