October 29, 2010
LOS ANGELES — If the notion of Washington State going from last in the Pac-10 to the NCAA tournament this season seems a bit far-fetched, allow junior Klay Thompson to provide a little history lesson.
"There's a lot of motivation for us because we saw the '06 Washington State team go from 10th to second," Thompson said Thursday at Pac-10 media day. "We think we have as much talent as that team and we're looking forward to a big year."
Any postseason push from the Cougars probably must start with Thompson, the high-scoring guard whose shooting numbers often served as a barometer for his team's success.
In Washington State's surprising 14-5 start last season, Thompson emerged as one of the West Coast's top scorers, averaging 47 percent shooting from the field. In Washington State's disastrous 2-11 season-ending collapse, Thomas visibly wore down, shooting just 33 percent during that stretch.
To avoid repeating the same fate again this season, Washington State hopes to lessen the pressure on Thompson by adding balance to the offense and establishing more scoring options. In addition to promising sophomore point guared Reggie Moore and low-post threat DeAngelo Casto, the Cougars are counting on improved outside shooting from junior guard Marcus Capers and immediate scoring impact from junior college transfer Faisal Aden.
"I think we'll be able to surround Klay with better scorers and maybe not put as much of the load on his shoulders," Washington State coach Ken Bone said. "When Klay wasn't making shots last year, we were in trouble. At that time we tried to go to Reggie Moore a lot more and him being a freshman he did what he could, but after that we didn't have a lot of other guys who could put the ball in the basket."
Since opposing teams will surely gear their defense toward slowing him down, Thompson focused his offseason on diversifying his game and transforming himself into more than just a shooter. He spent the summer working on creating off the dribble so he can set up his teammates when opposing defenders run at him to prevent him from getting a clean look at the rim.
"I really just focused on getting quicker and stronger because that will help me be more efficient," Thompson said "If my overall athleticism improves, maybe I can take my game to another level. Instead of being one-dimensional, I can be more versatile and help my teammates as a playmaker."