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Originally published March 4, 2011 at 10:01 PM | Page modified March 4, 2011 at 10:33 PM

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Bud Withers

WSU star Klay Thompson shows serious lack of judgment, leadership

Cougars star Klay Thompson, who was arrested for marijuana possession and suspended, should have known better.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

All you really need to know about the Klay Thompson bust Thursday night — all he really needs to know — is this:

At 12:38 Friday morning, roughly 90 minutes after he was pulled over by a Pullman cop with a reported headlight out on his SUV, there was a post on the website Cougfan.com: "Klay Thompson Arrested. Not an [expletive] Joke."

So it took a mere hour and a half from when a cop sidled up to Thompson's SUV until it became news, or at least blazing rumor — maybe even less than an hour removed from when Thompson was actually cited. Even though it was around midnight.

The poster on the website saw the arrest, phoned the Pullman cops and confirmed the charges.

Before we try to examine the layers of Thompson's indiscretion, let's assume the WSU basketball coaches scheduled a visit to the school's rec center Friday afternoon to see if there's anybody available with a crossover dribble or a jump shot.

Not only has Thompson been suspended for the key game Saturday with UCLA, but point guard Reggie Moore — himself busted for marijuana earlier this season — left the USC game with a foot in a protective boot Thursday night after spraining an ankle. The Bruins might ask Moore to kick them with it after they failed to overcome Washington on Thursday night.

Had UCLA done so, it could have just showed up in Pullman and accepted WSU's gesture of a gift-wrapped Pac-10 co-championship with Arizona.

Good for Mychal Thompson, Klay's dad, who told me Friday morning, "He's supposed to be the leader of this team, they depend on him, and he does something stupid like this ... there's no excuse for it."

About that invasion of UCLA: Somehow, through good years and bad, the Bruins have won 17 consecutive times in Pullman, dating to the Kelvin Sampson days in 1993. So, two hours after a victory over USC, Thompson prepped himself for the Bruins by opening up his stash. Tokes to get stoked, as it were.

They're college kids, you say. That's what happens in college. Well, in reality, with a spotlight intensely focused on athletics, they're college kids only second. They're athletes first and their team is their real cohort group, because in many cases — not necessarily including Thompson's — they wouldn't be in college without their athletic achievements.

Their exploits, good and bad, are on ESPN because they're college athletes. That's not the case if you're a chemistry major from Quincy.

Ken Bone, the WSU coach, has to come in for some criticism here. He's the CEO of a program that's had two busts in a couple of months. Perhaps the one-game suspension of Moore in January, and the delay in getting it resolved, sent a message of lax leadership.

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But it's really more about kids who ought to know better making mistakes. If appearances are correct here, Thompson's arrest is mind-numbing on about as many levels as the points he scores per game (21.4).

This isn't a player who shouldn't be worldly-wise. He's from an upper-class family, with a father who was a former No. 1 draft choice in the NBA, who, as a broadcast personality now in Los Angeles, is around athletes all the time. Mychal is in Klay's life, engaged in his activities, so there are no excuses about ramifications.

Klay Thompson's team is fighting for an NCAA-tournament berth. However the season ends for WSU, Thompson will have the option of the NBA draft a year early. Thompson's credentials for the league didn't include a lot in the way of leadership, and this surely won't be a bullet point he'll want at the top of his résumé.

Yet, this is what I was told Friday by an NBA scout:

"It makes him one of the boys. The fact is, yeah, people will ask a few more questions to see if there might have been something before that might have been swept under the rug. It's no different from you or me in college. Does it affect (his prospects)? I don't think so."

The scout would know. But if I were an NBA executive, I might question the judgment of a potential draft choice who was handcuffed in the back of a police car just when his team needs him most.

Now, he gets to go home next week and — possibly — play in the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles. Homecoming never felt so hollow.

"It's in society, and sports is part of society," said Mychal Thompson. "You have to make the choice."

Klay Thompson made his. He picked the wrong door.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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About Bud Withers

Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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