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WSU legend Klay Thompson: Cougars’ NCAA return ‘gives me chills’

Mar 21, 2024, 2:30 PM | Updated: 2:37 pm

WSU Cougars legend Klay Thompson has seen and done just about everything in his basketball career. He’s made five NBA All-Star teams, has been an All-Defensive and All-NBA selection, and even won four NBA championships with the Golden State Warriors.

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It’s pretty hard for an athlete of Thompson’s stature to get nervous, but he told Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Thursday that’s actually how he’s feeling this week. The reason? His alma mater is playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time Thursday night since the season before Thompson stepped foot on campus in Pullman, Wash.

“Man, it gives me chills,” Thompson told fellow legendary WSU athlete Michael Bumpus and his co-host, Stacy Rost. “… It’s so well earned and I’m so proud of these young men for just the performances they’ve put on the whole. I was nervous last night, I was telling my friends how excited I am for this opportunity for these guys. It’s just special for Cougar Nation, obviously.”

WSU is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007-08 (Thompson joined the team in 2008-09), and leading the charge for the surprising 25th-ranked Cougars this season is head coach Kyle Smith, who is in his fifth year with Washington State. Smith, who was in the Bay Area (like Thompson) from 2016-19 as the San Francisco head coach, is expected to be sought after by other programs after this season, but he has acknowledged conversations this week with WSU about a potential extension.

“Oh man, Kyle has been incredible,” Thompson said when asked about the Cougs’ coach. “We all appreciate him while we can because we know how in demand he will be after everything he’s done for our program (this season), which is unfortunate. But at the same time, that’s just how the sports world is. He’s been awesome. I mean, he did an incredible job at San Francisco. Now what he’s done for Wazzu has been nothing short of special. I love what Kyle’s done – his system, his style of play, it’s beautiful.”

WSU coach Kyle Smith on potential extension: ‘We’re working on it’

What is Thompson’s message to the Cougars ahead of their first-round game Thursday night against Drake?

“I’ll just tell them how proud we are of them, especially Cougar nation. I mean, it’s been a long time coming and they did something I never did,” Thompson said. “People, I hope they realize how hard it is to get an NCAA (Tournament) berth, so just enjoy this moment. We’re all behind them, and just be as present as possible. Don’t think about two days in advance, just think about the Drake Bulldogs, what you got to do to win the game. Just be selfless out there and play for your teammates and have fun because we’re all tuned in. It’s going to be so much fun to to watch.”

The WSU radio broadcast of the No. 7-seed Cougars’ game at 7:05 p.m. against 10th-seeded Drake will air live Thursday night on Seattle Sports 710 AM and the Seattle Sports app.

You can hear the full Bump and Stacy conversation with WSU legend Klay Thompson in either the video or audio player near the top of this post, or in the podcast at this link.

Preview: WSU takes on Drake in first round of NCAA Tournament

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