Seen & Heard 1/11

<b>EVERYWHERE I TURN</b> these days -- the message boards, sports radio, newspapers -- there's talk about recruiting. And it seems there's increasing attention (or perhaps consternation) about how highly, or not, this prospect or that one is rated. This drives me nuts for one simple reason: These ratings are largely pie-in-the-sky.

Granted, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess that a Michael Bumpus may be something special. But as hard as the folks at Scout.com, ESPN.com and elsewhere work to forecast it all, there's no way to get a truly legitimate handle on all the high school players out there.

The mass numbers alone make it impossible for analysts to see every prospect. Moreover -- except for maybe in Florida and Texas -- a kid living outside a major metropolitan area is at a big disadvantage when it comes to getting attention. In addition, we're talking about 18-year-olds. There's a lot of mental, physical and emotional adjustment that takes place between high school and big-time college football. A lot can happen, pro and con, over the course of the next four or five years.

And finally, no matter how much they study, the analysts aren't coaches. While I enjoy reading Allen Wallace's stuff, suffice to say he ain't no Robin Pflugrad.

Ok, let's toss out some names to help prove my point. You pick which of the following two groups of players you'd rather have on your team.

Group A: Will Derting, Scott Davis, Jason Hill, Erik Coleman, Marcus Trufant and Rien Long.

Group B: Casey Paus, Charles Frederick, Paul Arnold, Rich Alexis, Dan McCourtie and Dan Dicks.

Clearly it's hands down for the first group. All were or are bona fide Pac-10 standouts. One was a first round draft pick, another an Outland Trophy winner and yet another the rookie toast of New York for his work this season with the Jets.

And guess what? Coming out of high school, three of them were one-star wonders and three rated two stars and absolutely zero hype.

The other group? All four- or even five-star uber studs destined for collegiate greatness. In a word, NOT!

That's no slam on those guys who didn't live up to their billing, just a recent, real-life case in point about why it's foolish to get too wrapped up in the star system. The ratings are an extremely rough benchmark. Nothing more, nothing less. The true value of a prospect can't be judged for another three or four years.

MOVING ONTO BASKETBALL, I'm not easily impressed but I have to say Cougar senior Jeff Varem's scoring and rebounding since Pac-10 play began has been other-worldly. Apparently Coach Bennett's bromides about consistency are taking hold with the 6-6 center/forward.. In his last four games Varem is averaging 17.8 points and 9.3 rebounds.

That heartbreaking double-overtime loss to UCLA last week was memorable for several reasons, including Thomas Kelati's two clutch three-point baskets and the big-time contributions of true freshmen Kyle Weaver and Josh Akognon. But above all was the radio commentary of Bud Namek. The guy was on fire, calling the refs on bogus calls and going nuts with Kelati's heroics. It brought me back to the glory days of George Raveling, James Donaldson and Bob Robertson. Well done, Bud.

I don't know if this is a first, but it's certainly rare. On New Year's Eve, the four Northwest schools swept the four California schools in basketball. I'm thinking you have to go back to the 1970s -- when Raveling, Harshman, Harter and Miller were atop on the Northwest hoops scene -- to find that kind of factoid.

INGLEMOOR HIGH SCHOOL football fans may have thought they took a wrong turn en route to games this past season. While it's hard to confuse Kenmore, north of Seattle, with Pullman, the sounds from the field were awfully reminiscent of Martin Stadium all autumn. The PA announcer, you see, had a distinct way of making certain calls. AND THAT'S ANOTHERRRR… VIKING… FIRST DOWN was a favorite, though not to be overshadowed by NOOOOOOO GAIN.

Nope, it wasn't the great Glenn Johnson behind the mic. But it was one of his biggest fans, lifelong Cougar Rich Howard, whose son Dan was a star wide receiver for the Vikes. Word on the street is that Rich received some good-natured kidding from a guy who had his name called a few times by Johnson in the early 1980s: legendary WSU running back Rueben Mayes. Rueben, on hand for the Inglemoor-Redmond game, advised that Rich may want to stick with his day job.

SPEAKING OF FOOTBALL announcers, nobody asked but I have to say that he's so bad he's actually good: Fox sideline reporter Tony Siragusa. The rotund ex-Baltimore Raven gives inanity a whole new meaning, but in an appealing sort of way.

Moving on to print media, our fearless executive editor just finished the Jim Walden and Sonny Sixkiller books. Both were quick and entertaining reads, he reports. Still, he found room for a couple of minor nits to pick. Walden dismisses the off-field behavior of Keith Millard as a one-time incident with the pizza boy, when reality was that Millard was a walking series of questionable judgments. Sixkiller, meanwhile, devotes about two sentences to one of the biggest stories of his playing days: black players charging coach Jim Owens with racism and on walking out on him before the UCLA game in 1969. Race relations helped defined that era in America and Sonny had a front-row seat to a remarkable episode in it. The topic begged for some insight.

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