COMMENTARY: The return of number one


The Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson (11) has his shot blocked by the Denver Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried (35) in the first half of a preseason game at Oracle Arena, Oct. 13, 2015.

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen reporter

On Saturday, arguably the greatest basketball player in WSU history will come back to Beasley Coliseum, as Klay Thompson returns to see his No.1 jersey raised in the rafters to honor his legendary career.

Thompson’s skills on the court helped get him drafted 11th overall in the 2011 NBA draft, the highest a Cougar has been drafted since 1948.

Thompson is well known for his work as one of the “Splash Brothers” on the Golden State Warriors alongside Stephen Curry. Fans in Pullman know Thompson for what he did on Friel Court from 2008 to 2011.

Thompson’s name can be found all over the WSU basketball record books, starting with the 1,756 points he scored in his career, good for third of all time. He is second for 3-point attempts (620) and makes (242) in a career. Additionally, he is in the top five in field goal attempts, points per game, field goals and free throw percentage.

Thompson is not only an all-time WSU player, but an all-timer in the conference as well. He is 13th all-time in the conference among qualified players in points per game (17.9) and three-point percentage (.390) as well as 14th in free throw percentage (.827).

Thompson did not start to show the skills that would make him an all-NBA player until after his first year in Pullman. Despite being named to the all-Pac-10 freshman team, he averaged 12.5 points, but he did demonstrate his skills as one of the best shooters in the world. He shot 41.2 percent from behind the arc while making the fifth most three pointers in the conference.

He averaged 11.5 field goals attempted per game his freshman year despite starting all 33 games and playing an average of 33 minutes a night. Thompson had to share the court with an all-Pac-10 player in Taylor Rochestie and a future NBA player in Aron Baynes, so he may not have been able to shoot as much as he would like.

That changed the next two seasons, as his field goal attempts per game increased to 15.6 as a sophomore and 16.2 as a junior. Thompson was named to the all-Pac-10 first team in both seasons as well as the all-Pac-10 tournament team in 2011.

As a sophomore, Thompson became the offensive leader of the team. He averaged 19.6 points per game, good for second best in the conference. He did that despite shooting 41.2 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three, the worst shooting percentages of his career, but still numbers most players wish they could achieve.

Thompson improved those percentages in his final season as a junior in Pullman. He raised his field goal percentage to 43.6 percent, good for ninth in the conference, and his three-point percentage to 39.8 percent, good for second in the conference.

His improved shooting numbers translated to his best scoring season of his career. He averaged 21.6 points per game, the highest in the conference and 12th best in the country.

In the NBA, Thompson has excelled on some of the biggest stages and proven to be clutch. He showed his scoring abilities at WSU, where he had some of his best games when they mattered most.

Thompson had two games in his career where he scored 43 points, tied for third all-time in school history. The first time was as a sophomore, when he led WSU to a blowout win over San Diego in the Great Alaska Shootout championship game. Thompson was named MVP of the tournament for his efforts.

The second time was in the Pac-10 tournament in 2011. Thompson’s 43 points came in a loss to the University of Washington in the quarterfinals, but is still the most points ever scored in a tournament game in conference history. He also set records that game for points in a half, field goals attempted, and 3-pointers made while he tied the record for field goals made.

During his time at WSU, Thompson was the type of superstar player that any team would want. He has been missed since leaving for the draft, as the Cougars have yet to match the 22 wins he led the team to in his final season in Pullman.

Hopefully, fans get to watch Thompson play in the NBA for many more years, but for one more night he returns home to Beasley Coliseum.