PULLMAN – Klay Thompson said throughout his three years at Washington State his dream was to play in the NBA.
He’ll get his chance.
Thompson, who left WSU after his junior year, was taken 11th overall in Thursday night’s NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors, the highest a Cougars player has been picked.
“It gives me chills, just thinking about it. It’s a dream come true,” Thompson said on a conference call from New Jersey with Bay Area reporters. “I feel like, for my first year or two, I can come off the bench and provide a great scoring punch – score in bunches – and playmaking because of my court vision. I feel like I can fit in and be the real versatile guy that they need off the bench.”
“It shows why he decided to leave,” WSU coach Ken Bone said of Thompson’s lottery selection and his decision to forego his last year of college eligibility. “There were a number of people who questioned him making that decision and that was even when he was projected more late first-round or early second.
“He was just able to show in his workouts, I think, that he’s better than the country knew, really. Maybe that’s the East Coast bias or whatever, but in all these different workouts he showed what he was capable of doing.”
For the 10th consecutive season, a son of a former NBA player was selected in the draft. Thompson’s father, Mychal – who was also in attendance at the Prudential Center in Newark along with Klay’s mother, Julie – was the No. 1 overall pick by Portland in the 1978 draft and had a 12-year NBA career.
When Thompson announced April 18 that he was submitting his name to the draft, he said he expected to be chosen in the first round. But as he worked out for teams following his decision to ignore the ensuing deadline to return to school, his stock continued to rise.
In recent weeks Thompson worked out for many of the lottery teams, including Milwaukee and Golden State. When the Bucks made a trade and drafted Jimmer Fredette for Sacramento, Thompson was the Warriors’ choice.
“It comes as no surprise that we drafted Klay Thompson,” Warriors general manager Larry Riley told reporters. “We’ve said before that we liked him as a shooter, as an athlete and as a basketball player. He has an NBA skill (shooting) and will develop other skills. He has a bright future in front of him.”
Thompson, a 6-7, 205-pound shooting guard, averaged 21.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists for WSU last season, leading the Pac-10 in scoring and finishing 11th in the nation.
But the year wasn’t without bumps.
Pullman police cited Thompson, 21, for misdemeanor possession of marijuana the night before the Cougars met UCLA in a crucial Pac-10 game. He was suspended for the contest, made a tearful apology over the P.A. system before the game and returned to score a Pac-10 tournament-record 43 points against Washington.
Thompson said earlier this month he paid a $500 fine and has a Whitman County court date July 7, when he said his record will be cleared if he passes a drug test.
Thompson becomes the highest draft pick from Washington State, supplanting Cougars legend Don Collins, who was the 18th overall selection in the 1980 draft, picked by the Atlanta Hawks.
Thompson’s WSU teammate DeAngelo Casto, who also came out a year early, was not selected.