The long countdown to the Washington-Washington State men's basketball game on Sunday has begun - if not exactly with a bang, then at least with a few sparks.
Those may have started when WSU guard and Pacific-10 Conference player-of-the-year candidate Klay Thompson was asked by a Seattle radio station who should win the award.
His answer: Derrick Williams of Arizona.
And while that wouldn’t seem to qualify as trash talk, UW guard Isaiah Thomas – also a player-of-the-year candidate – noticed his omission.
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“I laughed at it,” Thomas said Wednesday. “It’s all good, though. We’ll see who wins come Sunday. I’m not into all that. He can say what he wants.”
Thomas also pointed out that he is 4-0 against the Cougars, and that’s what matters.
Later Wednesday, when Thompson was asked directly about Thomas, he offered a series of measured compliments that topped out at “really good.”
“He’s a good player,” Thompson began. “Very athletic for his size. Really quick. And a better playmaker than people give him credit for. He’s done a better job of that this year. We just have to slow him down. He’s a really good player.”
Both teams – and their fans – have added time to focus on the rivalry because neither has played since Saturday and because this tipoff comes later than usual: 7 p.m. Sunday in Pullman.
“That Washington State rivalry is the Apple Cup of basketball,” Thomas said. “These are the games you want to play in, and you know it’s going to be a crazy game for both teams.”
UW coach Lorenzo Romar added that both teams have much to play for beyond bragging rights.
Washington (15-4 overall, 7-1 Pac-10) will take the floor as the nation’s No. 18 team and as the leader of the Pac-10. Washington State (14-6, 4-4) comes in knowing its NCAA tournament hopes won’t survive many more loses.
“Forget the rivalry,” Romar said. “There’s a lot at stake for both teams, rivalry or not.”
HALL OF FAME
Former UW center Todd MacCulloch has been named to this year’s class of inductees to the Pac-10 basketball hall of fame.
MacCulloch played from 1996-99 and led the Huskies to the NCAA tournament as a junior and senior. He averaged 18.6 points and 9.7 rebounds for UW’s 1998 Sweet 16 team. He was named twice to the all-conference team and was a Playboy All-American.
Representing the other Pac-10 schools in this class are: Former Federal Way High star Michael Dickerson, Arizona; Isaac Austin, Arizona State; Bob Mc-Keen, California; Charlie Warren, Oregon; Charlie White, Oregon State; Brevin Knight, Stanford; Don Mac-Lean, UCLA; Harold Miner, USC; Ray Sundquist, WSU.
The induction will take place March 12.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports