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Former Cougars star Utley saluted

WSU great Mike Utley is inducted into The College Hall of Fame during the first half of a PAC 12 college football game on Saturday, Oct 15, 2016, Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
WSU great Mike Utley is inducted into The College Hall of Fame during the first half of a PAC 12 college football game on Saturday, Oct 15, 2016, Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Former WSU football player Mike Utley was jointly honored by the school, National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame with an NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute during the first timeout of the second quarter of Saturday’s game against UCLA.

Utley was a three-time All-Pac-10 selection on the offensive line and won first team honors in 1988, the year WSU had its best record in 58 years and won the Aloha Bowl, which was the program’s first postseason win since 1916. Utley was named team MVP as a senior and was named a consensus first-team All-American.

“This is very overwhelming,” Utley said in a release after the announcement in January. “Washington State University and head coach Jim Walden gave me an opportunity and I told him I would give 100 percent of myself. Playing for the Cougars was a wonderful experience and hopefully I’ve been able to pay it forward.”

Utley was selected by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 1989 NFL draft and played three seasons before spinal injuries left him paralyzed from the chest and elbows down. He has since regained the use of much of his hands and arms, and partial use of his legs.

Utley is the fourth Cougar to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player, joining Glen Edwards, Mel Hein and Reuben Mayes. Including the 2016 class, fewer than 1,000 of the 5.19 million people to have played college football have been inducted.

Basketball previewed

Like every other college basketball team, the Washington State Cougars are far from ready to begin their season, and at times it showed during their Saturday afternoon preview practice.

But for a stretch or two, the Cougars were able to show the 75 or so fans in Beasley Coliseum exactly what they hope to look like in the 2016-17 season.

Freshman point guard Malachi Flynn let a 3-pointer fly and found the bottom of the net for the Red team, which consisted of WSU’s presumptive starting five. The shot clock barely had time to reset before sophomore Viont’e Daniels drained his own jumper from mid-range. A few nifty passes later and the ball found a wide-open Derrien King in the corner, who drained his own triple.

The Cougars played fast, fastbreaking at every opportunity. This is impressive because they were playing themselves, and the Cougars are so reticent to let other teams play fast that they are going to concede all rebounds on the offensive end.

An optimist is happy with WSU’s depth, since the Gray team beat the starters 34-28. The group was led by guard KJ Langston, who scored eight consecutive points at one point. Langston showed off a sweet 3-point stroke and, with athletic glasses and a headband, even sweeter accessories.

Another freshman who showed legitimate chops was 6-foot-9 forward Jeff Pollard. Pollard mixed step-back baseline jumpers with deft touch around the rim and will likely see extensive minutes this year. Ultimately, the men’s basketball team will still need seniors Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegu to carry them if they are to see much improvement on last year’s record.

But the Cougars appear to be working toward the speed and cohesion they lacked a year ago.

“Bill Moos did a wonderful thing allowing this team to go to Italy,” coach Ernie Kent told the crowd after the practice. “As you can see, much improved shooting, passing and defense.”

Once the men’s team wrapped up, the crowd stayed to watch the women’s team. June Daugherty’s team put on a shooting exhibition and then scrimmaged. Returning star Borislava Hristova looked sharp as she gears up for her second season in Pullman, and fellow sophomore Alexys Swedlund was sharp from outside the 3-point line.

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