Thompson, Casto look to join Pac-10 elite

Nov 22, 2010, 7:38 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:54 pm

thompson

Michael Simeona, MyNorthwest.com intern

After a last place finish in the Pac-10 in 2009-10, the Cougars look to return to the upper-echelon of the conference in Ken Bone‘s second season as head coach.

In preparation for the sixth-annual Cougar Hardwood Class tomorrow night at KeyArena, WSU’s Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto joined Monday’s show to talk about their quest to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

Thompson (pictured above) has been the Cougars’ leading scorer the past two seasons and was named to the All Pac-10 First Team last season, along with being third in the conference in scoring at 19.6 ppg. Thompson is already regarded to some as the best player to ever come through the program, and is a legitimate NBA prospect in the upcoming draft.

While some analysts think he is ready to jump to the NBA right now, Thompson thinks there is unfinished business to take care of first.

“It’s always been my dream to make it there one day, but I also want to have a great time playing college basketball. I want to make the NCAA Tournament before I leave WSU, and I know we have the talent to do it this year,” Thompson said.

“I just want to get as far as I can in the tourney, maybe a Pac-10 championship, and put WSU back on the map like it has been in the past.”

Both Thompson and Casto were recruited by Tony Bennett, who left Pullman after four seasons to become head coach at Virginia. The contrasting styles between Bennett and Bone didn’t affect Casto’s defensive tenacity in leading the conference with 2.2 blocks per game. While Bennett’s slow, defensive-minded attack mirrored his playing style, Casto (pictured below) is starting to feel more comfortable in Bone’s up-tempo system.

“It’s been a huge difference, but it’s been great, I love it,” Casto said of Bone’s style. “I’ve adapted pretty well. I thought I played well in Tony’s system, but I don’t think I’m far off in playing (Bone’s) system either. It was a good fit for me, and I think it’s a good fit for the guys too.”

Tomorrow’s Cougar Hardwood Classic will be a good test for a young WSU squad, as the Portland Pilots have gone 4-1 with their only loss comingDeAngelo Casto Mug at the hands of the ninth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats last week. Led by Luke Sikma – former Sonic Jack Sikma‘s son – the Pilots will be looking to pull the upset, which is something WSU has been preparing for according to Casto.

“It’s not like we’re going to walk in tomorrow with a team that’s supposed to be a preseason win. It’s a team that you got to show up and play, and hopefully we come out with a victory,” said Casto.

Picked to finish fifth in the preseason Pac-10 media poll, the Cougars are determined to return to the top of the conference and make a trip to a postseason tournament for the first time since the ’08-’09 season. With no seniors on their roster, the Cougars’ will lean heavily on the production of Thompson, Casto, and sophomore guard Reggie Moore to reach their ultimate goal, winning the Pac-10.

“I’m looking at the makeup of the league and I think we can compete with anybody, and beat everybody,” said Thompson.

“We just got to play hard and keep improving every game.”

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