Should Klay stay? Former NBA Cougs weigh in

GUY WILLIAMS, Craig Ehlo, James Donaldson and Brian Quinnett all played in the NBA after starring at Washington State, and all four have their opinions on whether Cougars standout Klay Thompson should bypass his senior year to turn pro.

In the end, of course, the only opinion that matters is Thompson's. The junior guard, already the third-leading scorer in WSU history, said he'll wait until the end of the season to make his decision.

Ehlo realizes it's not the answer WSU fans want to hear, but he's convinced Thompson is headed to the NBA sooner rather than later.

"I think he's gone, because he's mature enough to make that decision," said Ehlo, who played in the NBA for 14 seasons, primarily as a "2" guard (Thompson‘s position). "His body is fine. His game has evolved. Some people question his ball handling; I think he's gotten better at that.

"The only thing that would ever, ever have him come back, he is disappointed -- we've talked about this -- about not playing in the NCAA tournament."

Ehlo said he believes Thompson's 43-point performance at the Pac-10 tournament "locked and sealed" the inevitability of Thompson leaving early. Ehlo also said Thompson's "little arrest thing" for misdemeanor marijuana possession earlier this month gives Thompson one more reason to turn pro next season.

"He's not a bad kid, and we've all made mistakes," Ehlo said. "He got caught. But I think if he came back next year -- students are ruthless in the stands. Even your own can turn on you in a heartbeat."

Williams and Quinnett said they believe the merits of turning pro would be infinitely higher if Thompson was a projected lottery pick (top 14).

"There's so much money," Quinnett noted.

Even if Thompson is not a lottery pick (which does not seem likely), Williams said there is some risk if Thompson returns to WSU next season.


"NBA teams seem to not give the college senior as much consideration as they do the underclassmen in the draft," Williams said.

Chad Ford, the NBA draft analysis for ESPN, predicts Thompson will go 40th in the June draft (second round). Ford does not rule out Thompson going late in the first round, which consists of 30 selections., which had Thompson going as high as late in the first round at times this season, does not currently list him as being drafted (60 picks).

Quinnett and Donaldson said that's preposterous.

"He's a first-round pick," Quinnett said. "He's an NBA player."I mean, he's good. He can score. He can shoot and handle the ball."

"I think he's going to be a terrific NBA player," said Donaldson, who played 14 seasons in the NBA. "I don't know if he's going to be a superstar kind of player, but he'll definitely be a very good player who could most likely contribute to an NBA team right away."

Quinnett and Donaldson adamantly stress the importance of obtaining a college degree.

Quinnett pointed out that an NBA player can return to school later to finish work on his degree, but Donaldson said he would encourage Thompson to stay in school.

"I'm a big advocate of making sure our student athletes are getting their degrees," Donaldson said, "so I'm in favor of him coming back."

Quinnett joked that he wants Thompson to leave early so Quinnett's single-game school record of 45 points has a better chance of staying in the record books. Thompson has scored 43 in a game each of the past two seasons, most recently in an 89-87 loss to Washington at the Pac-10 tournament.

"Thank God it didn't go into overtime! I would have been done!" Quinnett quipped.


  • Washington State plays Oklahoma State in the second round of the NIT tonight (ESPN2, 8:30 p.m. PT).

  • If the Cougars advance to the quarterfinals, they'll play in Pullman, as the higher seed, vs. Northwestern, which defeated No. 1 seed Boston College on Saturday.

  • For the complete 2011 NIT bracket breakdown head here.

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