A Cougar hoops story you don't want to miss

LOVE HIM OR hate him, there are two undeniable truths about Steve Kelley. One, he's a basketball junkie going back to his Philadelphia youth and the magic of Hal Greer and Wilt Chamberlain. Two, he's been one of the West Coast's preeminient sports columnists for a long time. So when Kelley travels to New York for the NIT final four and pens a column exalting Ken Bone, it's worth taking notice.

A mainstay at the Seattle Times since first coming on in 1982 as the Sonics beat writer, Kelley has hoops cred so deep his name is sprinkled throughout the greatest basketball book -- and perhaps the finest sports book -- ever written. David Halberstam's 1981 best-seller, The Breaks of the Game, is the standard by which all non-fiction should be written.

The fact Kelley traveled to the Big Apple this week speaks volumes about the legitimacy of the Cougars' run and the NIT itself. Some radio blowhards -- chief among them Mike Salk of KIRO in Seattle -- have tried to diminish the merits of the Cougars' success because the NIT isn't the NCAA tournament.

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Granted, every team wants to hit the Big Dance, but the NIT ain't all bad -- particularly when your team is playing some of its best ball of the season against very solid opponents

Now factor into the mix what Kelley wrote today about Bone and your jaw fairly drops.

"Three minor citations for marijuana possession issued by Pullman police to three different starters have made the Cougars look, from a distance, like some out-of-control, drug-addled basketball program," Kelley wrote. "That's so far from the reality ...

"Bone, whose team plays Wichita State on Tuesday in a semifinal game of the NIT, doesn't cheat. He doesn't recruit bad kids. And, as he has shown this season, he addresses problems quickly and efficiently ... This isn't a band of outlaws that needs to be targeted by local police. Quite the contrary. Bone runs the kind of program in which parents should want their kids taking part."

In a city that has given us a litany of Husky homers and/or Cougar bashers ranging from the likes of John Owen in the 1970s and '80s to Art Thiel in the '90s and Jerry Brewer today, Kelley's piece stands out. Add in his chops as a basketball guy and the column rises to the "must read" level.

And in that regard, CF.C is pleased to lend an assist worthy of Hal Greer. To read Kelley's column, click to the Seattle Times headline Ken Bone runs program to be proud of at Washington State.

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