The Wiley One Enters the Hall
Photo courtesy of Kitsap County Bremerton Athletic Roundtable Roger Wiley, left, was an all-coast player at Oregon. He played against another Kitsap Sports Hall of Famer, Jud Heathcote of Washington State, right.
Back in Roger Wiley's days, giants were hard to find.
It wasn't like today, when it seems more basketball teams than not boast a player or two that scrape the sky.
Wiley, at 6-foot-8, was one of only two big men in the state during his glory days at Bremerton High School in the early 1940s.
With that size advantage, Bremerton won the state basketball title in 1941, beating St. John 30-29.
Saturday, Wiley will be inducted into the Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Olympic College.
"We won the state tournament because Roger was so good they couldn't handle him," said Les Eathorne, the Hall of Fame basketball coach who was Wiley's teammate.
Bremerton was so good they finished second at state the next year, when Wiley was a senior, losing to Hoquiam in the state title game, 36-34.
So it would seem that a rare big man who led a team to a state title would be a lock to play college basketball, right?
Well, yes and no.
Wiley did go on to a successful career at Oregon, but it was no sure thing in his mind.
While his parents and his coach, the legendary Ken Wills, expected to him to go to college, Wiley wanted to work in the navy yard as an apprentice.
That was until he watched his first college basketball game, pitting Washington and Oregon.
"I sat spellbound watching these two universities," Wiley remembered. "It was from that experience that gave me a different outlook on life."
Wiley couldn't wait to play college basketball. He talked to UW coach Hec Edmundson, but he was "lukewarm" on the Bremerton kid.
Two teams showed interest: Oregon and Washington State. He visited both.
"I remember how cold and brittle it was in Pullman," Wiley said. "The sun was out in Oregon. I think I was a young enough man to be influenced by the elements in those trips."
Eathorne, who went to Washington, remembers asking Wiley why he went to Eugene.
"He said, 'They have a seven-foot bed,'" Eathorne said.
Wiley headed south, set to play ball and major in engineering, but before he could get too far along he enlisted in the service.
He served as an army engineer in Myanmar (formerly Burma) from 1943-46.
During the war, Wiley realized that a life of math and engineering wasn't for him. He realized that he wanted to work with work with children and coach.
And on his return to Oregon, that's what he worked toward.
He also played pretty well, too. He averaged 14.7 points per game — in an era when scores were considerably lower than now — and earned all-coast honors.
He was even drafted by the Baltimore Bullets, but in those nascent days of the NBA, a player could make as much money teaching as playing.
Wiley headed to Bend, Ore., and taught and coached three sports. He also coached at Springfield, Ore., before returning to college and earning his doctorate in 1963.
Wiley had a distinguished academic career. He was the chairman of the physical education department at Washington State, and he was the chairman of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation from 1975-76. He was a Pacific Coast Conference basketball evaluator and served as a professor/advisor at West Point in 1982-83 while on leave from WSU. He retired from Washington State in 1990.
Wiley had three sons who played college basketball and a daughter.
Wiley, 83, is retired in Sequim with his wife Thyrza.
"I moved here because the wife and I love the salt air," Wiley said.
Note to readers: This is another in a series of stories about Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame inductees. Former NFL player Kevin Sargent was profiled Sunday, and Joni Slagle was featured in Tuesday's editions. Horseshoe standout Herb Criss was featured in Wednesday's edition. Former Bainbridge girls basketball coach Leigh Ann Charlston will be profiled in Friday's paper.
Eighteen athletes and the 1949 Olympic College basketball team will be inducted on Saturday at Bremer Gym on the Olympic College campus. The dinner/banquet gets under way at 1 p.m. with a social hour. Ticket are $35 and available at Ralph's Red Apple Market (6724 Kitsap Way, West Bremerton), Pacific Northwest Team Sports (5960 Hwy. 303, East Bremerton) and the Bremerton Tennis & Athletic Club (1909 NE John Carlson Rd.). The Kitsap County Bremerton Athletic Roundtable sponsors the annual event.