Checking in with Klay Thompson

KLAY THOMPSON, soft spoken and reserved by nature, offered a quick and emphatic answer when asked how he is doing in the wake of recent challenges on and off the basketball court.

"I'm great!" Klay Thompson fairly shouted Tuesday afternoon following Washington State's final practice before Wednesday night's NIT contest with Long Beach State.

Thompson, of course, endured being suspended for WSU's final regular-season game after Pullman Police allegedly found a small amount of marijuana in his truck.

He bounced back with one of the greatest performances in WSU and Pacific-10 Conference history, scoring 43 points last Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament. Alas, it wasn't enough to prevent an 89-87 loss to the Washington Huskies, who went on to claim the championship.

"Going into the game, I just felt pressure to win, because it was our last chance at (qualifying for) the NCAA tournament," Thompson said. "I didn't feel any (extra) pressure to perform."

Perform he did, however, scoring from anywhere and everywhere. He also made some fine defensive plays, tossed in a fancy pass or three, grabbed a few rebounds, had a couple steals, took tickets at the door, sold some popcorn, etc.

Was it Thompson's best game?

"Definitely one of the best," he said. "If we'd got the win, it would have been, for sure."

The 43 points tied Thompson's career high and broke the Pac-10 tournament record. But Thompson was clearly shaken in the locker room after losing a thrilling, well-played game.

A week removed, he has more perspective.

"That was a really fun game," he said. "I'll remember it forever."

WSU fans will remember Thompson forever, but it's uncertain how much longer he'll be providing them with warm memories. Thompson told Cougfan.com prior to the season that he would wait until the end of the season to decide whether to bypass his senior year to turn pro, and he told CF.C on Tuesday that nothing has changed.

"I just want to have a great tournament," he said. "After that, I'll talk to some people and see where my stock's at.

"I'll always have the option to enter (his name in the NBA draft) and not hire an agent, which is always good, because you can always give yourself the option to come back to school. "At this point, I'm just trying to win the tournament. That'll be a big, big decision (whether to turn pro) after that last game we play, but right now, it won't affect me."

Thompson played against several Long Beach State players in high school, including Larry Anderson, who figures to guard Thompson much of the time.

Thompson still remembers losing to Anderson's team in the California state playoffs on a last-second put-back of an air ball.

"I'll never forget it," Thompson said.

Thompson hopes to provide Washington State fans with an NIT experience they'll never forget. The junior guard said the Cougars initially found it "tough to swallow" that they were not destined to play in the NCAA tournament, but now they're focused on winning the NIT.

"We're all really excited," he said, "because this could be a great springboard to the future of this program."

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