During its heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Far West Classic, which was held between Christmas and New Year’s Day, was considered the premier holiday college basketball tournament in the country.
The FWC started in 1956 as a four-team event in Corvallis, expanded to eight teams in 1959, and moved to Portland’s Memorial Coliseum in 1960.
Over the years the guest list included national powerhouses — North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan, Princeton — and more obscure programs, such as the Dartmouth Big Green and the Billikens of St. Louis.
Some of the notable players who played in the Classic were Princeton’s Geoff Petrie and Oregon’s Jim Barnett, both of whom became original Trail Blazers; Oregon’s Stan Love, who is better known as the brother of Beach Boy Mike Love and the father of current NBA star Kevin Love; Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker, who was also a starting guard for Oregon State; and future NBA stars such as Michigan’s Cazzie Russell, North Carolina’s Charlie Scott, and Indiana’s George McGinnis.
In those days, there was no Internet, no ESPN and no smorgasbord of college basketball games on cable television. The only information available about teams and players from other parts of the country was what could be gleaned from the print media, particularly Sports Illustrated.
For the basketball aficionado, the opportunity to see some of those teams and players live was a special treat.
At the 1966 Far West Classic, there was an added bonus: the University of Washington was in the field, and the Huskies’ starting lineup included one of our own, 1965 Camas grad Gary Ostenson.
As a student at CHS, Gary was an exemplar of a scholar athlete. Not only did he compete for the Papermakers in football, basketball, baseball and track, he was also sophomore class president, ASB treasurer, and president of Key Club, and was recognized for academic achievement as a three-year member of the National Honor Society.
While he was good at all sports, Gary excelled at basketball. He was the leading scorer at CHS for three years, averaging 21.7 points as a junior and 22.4 points as a senior. When he graduated, he was the all time leading scorer in Papermaker history and set a new Southwest Washington scoring record his senior year. He was named to the All-Trico first team as a sophomore and junior and to the All-AA All Stars as a senior.
Going into the 1966 Far West Classic, the Huskies were 1-4 and not considered a favorite to contend for the championship. Gary remembers the team hoping to win its opening game so that they would keep playing at night before the large crowds rather than being relegated to the consolation bracket in the afternoon.
The Huskies opened with St. Louis and won 91-82 as Gary scored 17 points. In the second game, the UW faced Indiana, which had beaten Oregon State to end the Beavers ten-year run as FWC champions. Gary scored eight points as the Huskies edged the Hoosiers 81-79 to advance to the championship game against WSU, which had defeated Oregon 77-56.
Gary saved his best for the Cougars, when he scored 20 points on 7 for 9 shooting. For the tournament, Gary averaged 15 points per game, and shot 16 for 32 from the field and 77 percent from the free throw line.
After graduation, Gary stayed at Washington and enrolled in dental school, obtained his doctorate degree in dentistry, and then returned to Clark County, where he established a successful dental practice. In 2008, Gary Ostenson was inducted into the Camas High School Athletic Hall of Fame as a member of the Hall’s inaugural class.
The CHS Athletic Hall of Fame honors those Papermaker individuals and teams that have excelled athletically. Nomination forms for inductees to the Hall of Fame for the Class of 2014 will be available in January 2014.