Pac-12 to honor WSU great Puidokas during tournament

March 4, 2012 

As a kid growing up in Spokane, I became a fan of three Washington State University athletes — running backs Ken Grandberry and Bernard Jackson and power forward Steve Puidokas.

This week, Puidokas will become a part of the Pac-12 Hall of Honor during the men’s tournament. Sadly, he will be inducted posthumously.

Here is a nice profile on Puidokas written by former Spokesman-Review columnist Dan Weaver, whom I got to know during my days as a Western Hockey League beat writer.

I can still picture Puidokas wearing that gray "55" and remember how those great Pac-8 teams of the mid-1970s could not defend his overhead shot.

Among the remarkable notes about Puidokas was that WSU retired his number at the end of his senior season. To do that so close to the end of a player's career is astounding, even by today's standards. No doubt his coach, George Raveling, played a large role in that.

Below is a portion of the news release WSU sent out last month:

Puidokas burst upon the WSU basketball scene as a freshman in 1973-74, and by the time he left the Palouse, he had set five school records. He became the first basketball player and only the second student-athlete in WSU history to have his jersey number (55) retired when he was honored Feb. 26, 1977.

As a freshman, Puidokas averaged 16.8 points and 8.9 rebounds a game, earning All-District 8 honors, second team All-Pacific-8 recognition, and third team All-West Coast accolades. As a sophomore, he set school records with 42 points against Gonzaga and a 22.4 points per game season average. Puidokas led the Pacific-8 in scoring and ranked second in rebounding.

During his junior campaign, Puidokas averaged 18.0 points and 10.6 rebounds per outing while garnering second team All-Pacific-8 honors for a third-straight season. He became WSU’s all-time leading scorer that season and finished the year with 1,463 career points.

Puidokas capped his career at WSU by averaging 17.2 points and 9.7 rebounds during his senior season. He left WSU as the Cougars’ all-time leading scorer with 1,894 points and all-time leading rebounder with 992 rebounds. He was named second team All-Pacific-8 for the fourth time, having earned the accolade all four years at WSU. Puidokas also earned a second team All-West Coast selection and was a District 8 all-star. At the end of his career, he ranked fourth on the all-time Pac-8 list in scoring and seventh in rebounding.

Puidokas still holds the WSU career marks for scoring average (18.6 points per game), field goals (734), and rebounds. In addition, he ranks second in scoring, third in free throws (426), fifth in rebounding average (9.7), and fourth in minutes played (3,592).

In addition to Puidokas’ numerous rankings in the WSU record book, Puidokas is also the fastest Cougar to achieve the 1,000-point milestone, reaching the plateau in just 52 games compared to fellow Cougar Klay Thompson, who achieved the same feat in 63 games. Following his tenure at WSU, Puidokas was selected as the 13th pick in the third round of the 1976 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets. Puidokas later moved to Europe to continue playing basketball professionally. He played for Leiden in the Dutch league, where he scored 454 points in 31 games, averaging 14.7 in 1980.

Puidokas went on to play basketball for 14 years in Italy where he married and later died at age 40 of a heart attack.

Each year, every Pac-12 institution elects an individual from its university and selects them to be inducted into the Hall of Honor. The Pac-12 Hall of Honor was established in 2002 with the return of the Pac-12 tournament and now recognizes a former basketball great from each Pac-12 institution each year. Joining Puidokas as this year’s Hall of Honor inductees are Richard Jefferson (Arizona), Kurt Nimphius (Arizona State), Lamond Murray (California), Burdette Haldorson (Colorado), Jim Barnett (Oregon), A.C. Green (Oregon State), George Selleck (Stanford), Ed O'Bannon (UCLA), Sam Barry (USC), Arnie Ferrin (Utah) and George Irvine (Washington).

Washington State Hall of Honor Inductees
2002 - Craig Ehlo
2003 - Jack Friel
2004 - George Raveling
2005 - Gene Conley
2006 - James Donaldson
2007 - Vince Hanson
2008 - Mark Hendrickson
2009 - Isaac Fontaine
2010 - Paul Lindemann
2011 - Ray Sunquist

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