Former Cougar hoopers making serious tracks

JAMES DONALDSON, circa 1978

THE LARGER-than-life world of 7-foot-2 James Donaldson has expanded yet again to include one more new adventure. Donaldson, the former Washington State and NBA standout, has authored a motivational book titled "Standing Above the Crowd."

Donaldson has always towered above people physically. However, his personable nature and adventurous spirit makes it easy for him to relate to people of all sizes, ethnicity, religions and backgrounds. The Sacramento native-turned-long-time-Seattle-resident is a small business owner, motivational speaker and former candidate for mayor who has aimed his book at youths, athletes and business people.

"It actually came out better than I thought it would," Donaldson said. "Like most people, I didn't really feel I had a story to tell to really share and help people out.

"But I do a lot of speaking engagements, especially with young people around the country. I really felt this would be a great way to stand behind the message I'm conveying to them when I'm speaking to them.

The book includes a number of interesting nuggets from his days at WSU, including the painstaking work of WSU track coach Rick Sloan teaching Donaldson how to run properly.

Donaldson's basketball career is a testament to the message he is spreading. A self-described "chubby, chunky kid who weighed over 300 pounds," Donaldson never played organized basketball until his senior year in high school. Raised in a family that stressed academics and had no sports background, Donaldson had hardly touched a basketball in his life before the coach at his high school talked him into just practicing -- not playing in any games -- as a junior. He showed enough potential as a senior to grab George Raveling's attention and a scholarship at Washington State.

Donaldson rarely played as a freshman with the Cougars, but he wound up in the WSU Hall of Fame and the Pac-10's Basketball Hall of Honor after blocking a conference record 176 shots, grabbing 677 rebounds and scoring 718 points.

He was forced to play in Italy his first year as a pro after failing to stick with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979, but he joined the Sonics the following year and spent 14 seasons in the NBA, where he earned All-Star honors as a Dallas Maverick.

Donaldson, 53, will soon begin a national and international tour to promote his book. He plans to make stops in Spokane and Pullman in late April. Donaldson expects the book to be in some book stores in April. Published by Aviva of New York, autographed books are available now at www.standingabovethecrowd.com. Single copies cost $19.95, and discounts are available for multiple purchases.

"Encouraging everyone to be the best they can be. Setting a goal and working toward it. Staying positive, and having a great attitude."

DONALDSON ISN'T THE ONLY former WSU basketball star who is branching out in new directions these days. Craig Ehlo, who also spent 14 years in the NBA, said Thursday he has accepted an offer to become an assistant coach at Eastern Washington. Ehlo, who lives in Spokane, is close friends with new Eastern coach Jim Hayford.

Several years back, Ehlo spent three seasons as head coach at Rogers High School in Spokane. He has worked as a television sportscaster in recent years.

Ehlo starred on WSU's 1983 NCAA tournament team. He retired from the NBA after spending one season with Seattle in 1996-97. Ehlo said his son, Austin, may wind up playing basketball at Eastern. Austin, a football and basketball star at Lewis and Clark High in Spokane, gave up football after redshirting as a walk-on freshman wide receiver at Washington State last season.

MEANWHILE, ANOTHER COUGAR ballplayer from the Raveling era -- Guy Williams -- is going to have to start doing the unthinkable: Wearing purple. His daughter Aminah, an All-State basketballer at powerhouse Kennedy High in Burien, is headed to Washington. The 6-foot wing recently told the Seattle Times she chose the Dawgs over WSU, Gonzaga, Arizona, Nebraska and San Diego State because she wants to stay close to home. She averaged 19.5 point and 14 rebounds per game for Kennedy this season.

AND FINALLY, MARK HENDRICKSON, the scoring and rebounding force for the Cougars in the 1990s, finds himself not on an opening day Major League roster for the first time in 10 years. The Orioles, whom the 6-9 lefty reliever has pitched for over the last two seasons, cut him on Monday. He has opted to accept an assignment with the club's AAA affiliate in Norfolk rather than try to get picked up elsewhere. The 36-year-old Mount Vernon native has played for five teams in his career, racking 57 wins and 661 strikeouts.

Hendrickson is part of a unique fraternity in professional sports, having played four seasons in the NBA before embarking on his baseball career.

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