KLAY THOMPSON established himself as one of college basketball’s finest outside shooters during his three seasons at Washington State, but much of the nation seems to be discovering Thompson for the first time during the NBA playoffs. Still, it's his defense that has really opened some eyes.
“I feel like I’m a whole different level defender than I was last year,” Thompson said. “I’ve come to like playing defense. It’s fun to try and shut someone down.”
Thompson often shares the spotlight with his Golden State teammates, but the second-year guard became a national media sensation when he buried 8 of 9 shots from 3-point range in last Wednesday’s key win at San Antonio.
“Klay was unbelievable,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “A lot of those shots were tough.”
Thompson scored 29 of his game-high 34 points in the first half. The 34 points is a playoff record for a former Cougar in the NBA.
“One of the greatest halves ever,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “Not only what he did offensively, but what he did defensively.”
Thompson is averaging 16.8 points per game in the playoffs after averaging 16.6 during the regular season. Both marks are NBA records for ex-Cougs.
Thompson and Golden State scoring leader Stephen Curry set an NBA record for 3-pointers by two teammates this season. Jackson says the two make up “the greatest shooting backcourt that’s ever played the game,” and Jackson loves Thompson’s defense, too.
“It didn’t happen overnight,” Jackson said, referring to Thompson’s defensive play. “What you’re seeing is a product of long hours, long days, watching film, breaking stuff down, making mistakes.”
Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals is set for Tuesday in San Antonio (6:30 p.m., TNT). Aron Baynes, a rookie center-forward with the Spurs who played with Thompson at WSU, has not seen action in the series against the guard-oriented Warriors.
Former Washington State basketball player James Donaldson, whose long list of post-basketball activities has included work with schools in China, visited that country’s Sichaun province after last month’s earthquake killed or injured more than 11,000 people.
Donaldson offered comfort to children while making plans for basketball clinics in the region that will involve himself and other former NBA players this summer.
Senior long jumper and triple jumper Stephan Scott-Ellis, a three-time All-American for WSU, was declared ineligible for the remainder of the season prior to the Pac-12 Championships last weekend in Los Angeles.
The Cougars made no announcement last week and have since declined to disclose why Scott-Ellis is ineligible but a WSU spokesperson did note that grades were posted last Wednesday.
Senior hurdler Ramsey Hopkins also became ineligible prior to the Pac-12 meet.
This weekend in Austin, Texas, qualified Cougars bid for spots in the NCAA Championships at one of the two qualifying meets. The NCAA meet is scheduled June 5-8 in Eugene.
The Cougars finished 11th among men and 16th among women in the Track & Field News dual-meet rankings. The rankings are not meant to reflect where teams are expected to finish at the NCAA meet.
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reported that the Pac-12 Networks are preparing to produce a half-hour football show that will run Sunday nights year-round, beginning in August.
Also in the works is a weekly show designed in part to provide more coverage to “Olympics sports” in the Pac-12 (sports other than football and basketball).
Washington State is the host school for the NCAA Division I regional being held Thursday through Saturday at Pullman’s Palouse Ridge Golf Club.
The No. 1 seed in Pullman is top-ranked California, led by Michael Kim, the nation’s top-ranked collegiate golfer.
No Cougars are playing. Five teams advance from each regional to the NCAA Championships.
The 18th-ranked WSU women’s crew team competes at the Pac-12 Championships next Sunday in Gold River, Calif.
Five Pac-12 teams are ranked higher than the Cougars, including No. 1 USC, No. 2 California and No. 4 Washington.
With classes out in Pullman, the Cougars will play their final “home” games at Pasco’s Gesa Stadium, home of the Northwest League’s Tri-City Dust Devils. The Cougars sold out a game at Gesa (3,700 capacity) in 2011.
The Cougars (21-26, 8-16 Pac-12), who visit UC Santa Barbara on Monday afternoon, face Washington (19-30, 10-14) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday before taking on Portland on Monday.
Barring a miraculous late surge, the Cougars (who have lost 13 of the past 16 games) will finish the season May 24-26 at fifth-ranked Oregon State.
The Pac-12 office reprimanded WSU coach Donnie Marbut last week “for an inappropriate public outburst” toward an umpire after he was ejected from a loss to Oregon on May 5 in Pullman.
Jim Murphy, who has finally reached Class AA in his sixth year in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system, has started fast for Reading (Pa.) in the Eastern League.
After 25 games, Murphy ranks in the league’s top five in home runs (seven), runs batted in (25) and slugging percentage (.561). The 27-year-old first baseman, drafted in the 17th round out of WSU in 2008, stands 12th in batting at .303.