FOUR OBSERVATIONS after watching Saint Mary's take Washington State to the NIT woodshed on Tuesday night. First, the NCAA selection committee was crazy to pass on sweet-shooting Patty Mills. Second, where the heck has Marcus Capers been hiding that jump shot all season? Third, this ugly-shooting-turnover-fest was not the way WSU's seniors wanted to go out. And fourth ...

... no one is going to remember this fizzled ending. When all is said and done, Aron Baynes, Taylor Rochestie, Daven Harmeling and Caleb Forrest will be remembered as four of the biggest winners in Washington State University history.

Literally and figuratively.

They were here when no one thought it was possible. When the idea of an NIT berth for WSU -- let alone an NCAA bid -- would have been a dream come to life, they were running up and down that daunting hill at Sunnyside Park.


They were diving for loose balls in practice, learning patience on offense and cohesion on defense.

They were laying the foundation for a crimson renaissance. They were also just really good guys.

Along with fellow pioneers Robbie Cowgill, Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Chris Henry, they bought in to Bennett Ball -- and then they sold it on the court for everyone to see.

A whopping 69 wins -- 32 of them in conference play -- over three seasons. Three consecutive post-season invitations. A Sweet Sixteen appearance a year ago.

Indeed, the statistical support for their greatness is irrefutable. Over the last three years, Washington State is the second-winningest team in the Pac-10 behind UCLA.

Baynes, Rochestie, Harmeling and Forrest.

We'd have loved to see them go out on a high note. They earned it, to be sure. But in the twilight of their time on center stage, the larger picture is what burns brightest: THEY DID US PROUD.

More than a decade ago, following the Cougar football team's 1998 trip to the Rose Bowl, we opined on these pages that the disappointing conclusion in Pasadena wasn't really what it was about. Like Ulysses' odyssey to Ithaka, we said, it was about the journey itself.

And what a ride it's been. A bona fide basketball team on the Palouse -- one that made us stand up and scream like in the days of Don Collins and Mark Hendrickson. That was the dream. The glory was in the long road of adventure and excitement, of not knowing quite what they might do next.

Once a Coug, always a Coug. For Baynes, Rochestie, Harmeling and Forrest, there's more. They are forever in our hearts.

Thanks so much guys. What you did for the heart and soul our beloved school will never be forgotten.

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