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Driving the desolate road that connects Spokane to Pullman, the home of Washington State, one muses that the appearance of a telephone pole is almost like making human contact. It is a lonely ride, one that Pac-8 opponents won't find comforting this year. After long and doleful service as a conference sparring partner, the Cougars will be moving up to battle for the title with a seasoned cast and a House who has found a home.
Stuart House is a 6'11" product of Detroit who hid out at the home of his girl friend to evade zealous college recruiters. Why did he pick isolated Pullman, a sure cure for exhilaration? "There isn't anything to do but practice basketball and go to class," answers the freshman. "Someplace else I'd be out on the streets with my friends."
House is extremely quick for a big man, and if his ears don't turn blue from being yelled at by Coach George Raveling, the club will be strong on the boards with Center Steve Puidokas, already the school's alltime leading scorer, back for his final season and a bid for all-conference honors. "It's kind of nice to go out there and have to work every day at practice," says Puidokas, with an admiring eye toward House.
House is only one reason for the optimism around Pullman. Freshmen Don Collins and Angelo Hill also will make contributions, with Collins pushing seniors Greg Johnson and Brian Grun for a starting wing position. If Collins shows Raveling he can play defense, his push will become a shove. Harold Rhodes, the team's best shooter, will get the call at the other wing, while Marty Giovacchini and Ken Jones will divide duties at point guard.
Fitting all the pieces together is Raveling, recruiter, author, sports-gossip columnist, raconteur and television personality, as well as coach. Raveling has a reputation as a nonstop worker, a midnight recruiter who listens to motivational tape recordings while driving his car and a man who survives on five hours of sleep a night—a combination of Dale Carnegie, Rev. Ike and Elmer Gantry. He says, "I choose not to hang around with negative people."
"I know no one can work any harder," says school president Glenn Terrell. An enthusiastic Cougar booster, Terrell hired Raveling to revive State's program, sometimes leads the students in cheers during halftime and is an occasional visitor at practice.
Last year was Raveling's first winning season in four tries, and at one point the team was 11-3 before running into the tough part of the schedule and finishing 18-8. This time around, Washington State should start and finish stronger. When he came to the school, Raveling predicted he would make people remember Pullman. This year a lot of opponents will wish they could forget it.
Until the past few years, the only polls that counted in fashionable Georgetown were Gallup and Harris. Georgetown, the home of Congressmen, cabinet members and other political movers and shakers, never paid much attention to the AP writers' poll or the UPI coaches' poll, because it never had a college basketball power in its midst. Now it does. Georgetown University, home of the Hoyas, has arrived.