"I like what he's becoming."
In two home games last week, a 67-38 victory over Oregon and a 54-52 loss to Oregon State, the 6-foot-6 Klay Thompson scored 45 points – 25 against Oregon, 20 against OSU.
The output boosted Thompson's scoring average to a team-best 13.3 points per game – 18th highest in the Pac-10 Conference. He has made 44.7 percent of his field-goal attempts (127 of 284) including 54 of 123 (43.9 percent) of his 3-point shots.
Remarkably, he has yet to miss a free throw in college – 24 of 24.
"He's a heck of a player," Bennett said. "I think he'll have a nice future if he gets stronger and keeps working on individual improvement. He's a marked man and he's been able to produce."
Bennett said there are some "small things" Thompson needs to work on.
"Defensively, at times, like a lot of young kids, he loses some vision and gets exploited. But even there he's working harder and now he's just improving."
Thompson, from Ladera Ranch in Southern California, has the genetic composition to satisfy his desire to be all he can be. His father, Mychal Thompson, was the No. 1 choice in the 1978 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. He played 12 seasons in the NBA with the Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers. His mother, Julie, played volleyball at the University of San Francisco.
As a high-school senior, the younger Thompson led Margarita Catholic to a 30-5 record and the Division III state championship. Now, a year later, he is doing all he can with the Cougars, who have a 13-12 record (5-8 Pac-10) going into games in Los Angeles at USC on Thursday, 7:30 p.m. and at UCLA on Saturday at noon, (TV info below).
"These experiences are good for him," Bennett said in reference to the Cougars' character-building season. "But I know he wants to win. I know he gets frustrated. And I like that. He's not shocked that he's scoring and doing things. He's wired that way. He expects to compete and play well. I like to see that in him."
Meanwhile, Bennett relied on a cliché, "time will tell", in response to a question about whether the Cougars will respond positively this week to the bitter loss to Oregon State on Saturday.
"I know they were discouraged," Bennett said. "I was frustrated. (But) young kids seem to respond a little better than older coaches. It is a tremendous challenge and a great lesson in life – can you get back up, can you get back up and go play?"
If nothing else, the Cougars should know that anything is possible in the Pac-10 this season, during which member teams have repeatedly beaten each other up. But the trend should not be a detriment when at-large berths in the NCAA tournament are awarded, Bennett said. Six Pac-10 teams – league champion UCLA and five at-large choices – competed in the 2008 tournament.
"If there are not five or six teams in (this year) then I think something is wrong," Bennett said.