HARMELING: Saluting quirkiest & scrappiest

MOST OF THE COUGAR basketball players that walk into the locker room at Bohler Gym are clad in Jordans, sweats or other typical hardcourt attire. Over the past four years, though, one man bucked the trend. When formal practices at WSU convene in two weeks, it's a pretty fair bet to say no one will be filling this guy's sartorial shoes.

Cowboy boots are more comfortable to him than sneakers. A flannel button-up from Palouse Treasures is as good as gold. His camouflage hat is always freshly coated in waterproof spray. He once wore Carhart overalls for two weeks straight.

He's from Colorado.

And it's not me.

I can't think of a more unassuming basketball player than Caleb Forrest. But at the same time, I can't think of a better teammate. Nor can I think of a more interesting person.

His graduation is a loss to the WSU basketball program in so many ways.

For instance, I prided myself on being one of the first guys to show up for Saturday morning practices in the fall, but without fail Caleb was there first. That was a feat when you consider that his day was already many hours old by the time 9 a.m. practice started. Most of the guys think along the lines of getting up at 7:30, eating, being in the locker room by 8:15. But one glance at Caleb's camouflage apparel tells you he was out hunting first.

And the blood stains on the jeans suggest he's been successful.

But once the boots come off and he laces up his sneakers, one thing is for sure: Caleb Forrest will not be outworked. Ever. I haven't seen it once. Not by me, not by Aron Baynes, not by Jon Brockman. And just because he's trudged five miles over Palouse hills searching for pheasant before practice doesn't mean that he's going to let you grab the loose ball.

There is no doubt he has left his mark on every gym in the Pac-10. Just ask the janitors in charge of sweeping off layers of his skin after every game. In my five years at WSU, I thought I got on the floor quite a bit. But I've never seen a player hit the deck as many times as he has. In fact, I think we all might have our own favorite Caleb Forrest dive memory. And if none of the dives stand out, then perhaps you might recall his lights-out shooting performance at Friel Court against UCLA this past year.

But as country and blue-collar as he is, there are other things about him that he may not want you to know.


And it's my job to tell you about those. So here we go.

During our sophomore and junior seasons, we were roommates on the road. Most guys have certain things they always bring on the road -- iPods, DVD players, laptops, etc. For Caleb, the No. 1 priority was always Pepsi. And I'm not talking a can or two.

I'm talking about a 12-pack for a two-day stay in Spokane.

As I got out of the shower on the second day, I found Forrest surprisingly adorned in a Davenport Hotel robe, sipping a Pepsi out of a wine glass. Although his eyes were fixed on the TV for "Fishing with Roland Martin," he had the presence of mind to ask if I wanted his last Pepsi.

"Caleb, did you say last?"

"Yeah. You want it or not?"

"So, just to be clear, you already drank 11 Pepsi's since we got here yesterday?"

"Yeah. That's nothing. Back in Pagosa when I used to paint houses in the summer, I would start my day with a 64 ounce. And refill it at lunch. And refill it again during the afternoon break."

I'm not sure if it was my mind trying to calculate 64 x 3 or if it was the change in wardrobe, but either way my level of respect for him went through the roof. The only times when I would be upset with him was when he would win the contest to get the bed farthest away from the phone -- leaving me with the burden of having to take the wakeup call -- or when his traditional 45-minute bath eclipsed the hour mark. Since when do cowboys sit in the tub for an hour?

Perhaps my favorite memory from Caleb came two years ago when he announced he wasn't cutting his hair until we lost. Following our battle against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, when both teams came in undefeated, the locks had to go. Even though we were disappointed about the loss, Derrick Low and I were more than happy to be in charge of cutting Caleb's hair.

But when I discovered my electric clippers had died, it seemed we were going to have to wait. Caleb looked at me as if I was out of my mind. Without saying a word, he produced three knives and we began hacking away. The fact these were knives used to field dress pheasants – thus producing one spotty haircut -- didn't bother Caleb in the slightest.

I could sit here all day and take shots at how "sloppy" Caleb was. But get this – Mr. Fashion landed himself the most beautiful wife this side of Eva Longoria. Caleb and Alyssa are happily married and living in Caleb's home town of Pagosa Springs. Taylor Rochestie, Robbie Cowgill and I were honored to attend his wedding. Always up for a good debate, we started wondering what kind of upset Caleb had pulled by landing Alyssa. Now one thing you must understand is that upsets in relationships, in our books, are treated just like the NCAA Tournament.

The consensus amongst us three was that Caleb was a No. 14 seed and Alyssa somewhere around 1, 2 or 3.

But somewhere between the highs and lows, the Pepsis, and the haircut, a friendship was also forged that no one else could ever understand. You see, it's not typical for two guys to be fighting for the same minutes at the same position and become best friends. No matter if we both got 20 minutes, he got 40, or I got 35, Caleb Forrest always supported me and I always supported him. ALWAYS.

So when the pain of the loss of the St. Mary's game came crashing down on us seniors in that locker room this past March, I knew where to turn. I needed to see it one more time. Sure enough, just to my right, there was Caleb taking off his ankle tape. And in true Caleb Forrest style, he had ditched the tape cutters in favor of his pocket knife.

Now THAT'S a dude with true style.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daven Harmeling was a mainstay on the Washington State basketball team – and a fixture on the Pac-10 All-Academic team – during the most successful three-year stretch in Cougar history. Part of Dick Bennett's stellar recruiting class of 2004, this Grand Junction, Colo., product completed his eligibility last season and now is in Vancouver, Wash., running clinics for Dan Dickau Basketball and working as a substitute teacher. He is writing a regular column for Cougfan.com this season.

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