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Vol. 55, No. 2 • January 2018 • .pdf version
Hall of Fame announcements met by shock, joy
By MARK ALEWINE
The United States Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame just added four titans in college basketball.
The 2018 Hall of Fame class includes Lew Freedman, David Jones, Charles Pierce and Kirk Wessler.
Wessler was in stunned shock when he learned he'd been voted to the prestigious hall.
"Getting that news was the absolute last thing that would've crossed my mind," Wessler said. "It's cliche to say I was speechless, but all I could saywas 'Wow.'"
Wessler, who has covered college basketball for the vast majority of his career that began in 1977, got his start by a stoke of luck with his first job out of college at the Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Mo.
"Within the first month I was there, the veteranguy left and they shuffled things around," Wessler said. "I was handed the Mizzou basketball beat." Wessler has since enjoyed a long career that includes a stop with the Dallas Times Herald and is now the sports editor with the Peoria Journal Star.
Wessler credits his success to the opportunities offered to him, even as a college student.
"I was incredibly blessed to have been hired here at the Peoria Star Journal by the late Dick Lien," Wessler said. "He was a great role model for how to cover the sport."
Fellow inductee David Jones was shocked as well to hear he was a part of this Hall of Fame class.
"If I'd been standing up, I would've maybe fallen over," Jones said. "It was absolutely stunning. I was stunned and I was smiling the rest of the night."
Jones began his career with the Columbus Post-Dispatch during a whirlwind season in 1985 that included covering basketball at the universities of Ohio, Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio).
For Jones, college basketball was his first love. "Ohio State basketball was always my favorite thing to watch as a little kid," Jones said. "It was always my favorite thing even though I grew up in a football town."
Jones gives credit for his success to his contemporaries. Mike DeCourcy, John Feinstein, Bob Ryan, Mark Brennan, Gordy Jones and Dick Jerardi were among the colleagues Jones named as major influences on his work covering college basketball.
"It makes a difference when you go to 25 Final Fours and you sit around talking to people, you hear stories, you get experience, and you get a breadth of knowledge just listening to people who have covered it for a long time," Jones said.
Today, Jones covers Penn State basketball for the Harrisburg Patriot News.
Freedman started his career by covering Florida State basketball and later college basketball in Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His legendary status, however, came while covering Alaska-Anchorage basketball.
"I started in February of 1984, and the very first event I covered for the Anchorage Daily News was a college basketball game," Freedman said. "I begancovering Alaska-Anchorage right then and coveredthem for the next 17 years."
Freedman also covered the short-lived Alaska Pacific program, during which he produced a famous story in which he covered six of the team's games over a 10-day road trip on a bus through the Pacific Northwest.
"I think it was captivating for people," Freedman said of the story. "It was a small place. They didn't have four assistant coaches doing the laundry for them."
Freedman's unusual career path has led him fromthe cold of Alaska to the high desert of Wyoming, here he currently covers rodeos and the outdoors for the Cody Enterprise, a twice-weekly paper originally funded by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1890.
Still, Freedman finds compelling, award-winning stories within the vast world of college basketball, including his most recent piece on a 19-year-old assistant coach at Northwest Junior College in Powell, Wyo.
Pierce, who writes for Esquire and is a longtime Sports Illustrated and Slate contributor, has become an iconic figure in both sports and political writing, but his journalistic roots take him back to the college hardwood.
"The traveling carnivals of ne'er-do-wells who cover college hoops always have been some of my favorite running buddies in the business," Pierce said."And I was especially happy about it because, frankly, I've been off the beat for a while."
Looking back, Pierce has seen the game evolve into the spectacle it is today. But those following the game, Pierce believes, are still a one-of-a-kind group.
"I just always loved the people in and around the game," Pierce said. "When I started, it wasn't the huge spectacle that it's become. ESPN was just starting out. You could still get tickets to every round of the tournament and conferences made geographical sense. I've watched it grow, with all the pluses and minuses that entails, but it still seems to attract a unique passel of characters."
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