Vol. 50, No. 3 • March 2013 • .pdf version
• John Akers: These vice-presidents put in OT
• Joe Mitch: Relationship continues with Hall of Fame
• Hall of Fame welcomes Bilovsky, Lopresti, Rawlings
• Most Courageous: BC's Kelley, Oakland's Francis
• Twenty-five years ago, Katha Quinn set the standard
• ESPN.com's Medcalf wins Rising Star award
• Robertson, Tisdale lists feature Bennett, McLemore

Hall of Fame welcomes Bilovsky, Lopresti, Rawlings

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Frank Bilovsky made his bones in the Big Five's heyday. Mike Lopresti was born and raised in Indiana, where he has spent his entire professional career. Lenox Rawlings grew up in the Tobacco Road neighborhood, worked a brief spell elsewhere and returned to become a regional icon.

It's not a requirement for USBWA Hall of Fame inductees to be rooted in the nation's most fertile hoops soil. But when great journalism talent lives among great subject matter, the resulting body of work winds up a slam dunk for election.

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At age 13 in rural Pennsylvania, Bilovsky was smitten by college basketball when Lebanon Valley College from nearby Annville was invited to the 1953 NCAA tournament. The Flying Dutchmen defeated Fordham before falling to Bob Pettit and LSU. Lebanon Valley? How great a story was that?

"That was my baptism," Bilovsky says. "My confirmation was the Big Five, when I went to La Salle."

He graduated in 1962, got hired by the late Philadelphia Bulletin a year later and was assigned to cover the Big Five. His prose told the story of those doubleheaders at the Palestra until the Bulletin's demise in 1982.

"Frank played a huge role in transforming the Big Five into a Philadelphia institution and the Palestra into a national landmark," Hall of Famer Dick "Hoops" Weiss says.

A national sportswriting landmark is what Lopresti's column has become in USA Today. Lopresti got his journalism start at his hometown newspaper, the Palladium-Item, while a high school student in Richmond, Ind., where he still lives. He worked for the P-I until joining the startup crew for USA Today in 1982. Atlanta will mark his 34th Final Four.

Hall of Famer and former longtime Gannett colleague Steve Wieberg tells a story that wraps Lopresti's gifts in a tight package. The Soviets had just defeated Team USA in the 1988 Olympics semifinals, their first meeting since the infamy of Munich '72. Lopresti had barely finished his game story for the news service when he was informed USA Today wanted a column from him, too – and, oh, he had 20 minutes.

Lopresti tapped out the column on his primitive laptop, then puffed up the stairs to ask Wieberg for a quick read "to make sure there's nothing in there that's stupid or wrong."

"I scrolled down ... scrolled down ... scrolled down," Wieberg says, "until I'd read through it, and then looked at him. ‘Bleep you,' I said. I couldn't have written anything half as good if I'd had hours or even days to think it through."

It's hard to imagine anyone saying "Bleep you" to Rawlings, who retired in December after 34 years writing sports columns for the Winston-Salem Journal, where his work was must-read material for anyone remotely interested in the ACC. He previously worked in Raleigh, Greensboro and Atlanta.

A graduate of North Carolina, Rawlings never played favorites as he wrote about some of college ball's hottest rivalries, and he never shied from criticizing whoever and whatever deserved rebuke. That approach might have angered a few coaches and more than a few boosters. But Rawlings' way with words disarmed them and his honesty commanded respect. And it was just damn difficult to argue with his demeanor.

"An old-style, Southern gentleman," wrote the Salisbury Post's Mike London, who got Rawlings' style exactly right in one word: "Elegant."

Bilovsky, reflecting on his own career, could have been speaking for all three inductees when he said, "I've led a charmed life."

Yes, and basketball fans who've read our three honorees' handiwork are the beneficiaries.

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