Cat Thompson is widely considered the first four-time All-American ever and was named the best collegiate basketball player in game's first 50 years.

Hap Holmstead led Lehi High School to the first two basketball championships in the state's history. He won 13 varsity letters at the University of Utah and was the first athlete in school history to win in four in the same year.

Neither, however, was inducted into the State of Utah Basketball Hall of Fame in its inaugural year.

The main reason being nobody on the selection committee knew who they were.

When your best days were in the early part of the 20th century, it's not like there's videotape lying around.

Earl "Hap" Holmstead and John "Cat" Thompson will be inducted at the second annual ceremony, Nov. 11, 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake Hilton.

When Utah's Hall was conceived, about 1 1/2 years ago, the standard was simple. They wanted the state's best athletes, coaches and contributors of all time. It would be hard to say they failed on the first-year selections. The awards went to better-known, younger nominees: Wayne Estes, Danny Ainge, Zelmo Beaty, Adrian Dantley, Jack Gardner, Fern Gardner, Stan Watts, Larry Miller, Pearl Pollard and Bruce Hardy.

By the time the nominations for Holmstead and Thompson arrived in the spring of 1999, the selections had already been made.

In some ways, it's amazing they weren't forgotten again this year. Both athletes, now deceased, were victims of a modern society that has the attention span of an Irish setter. When Holmstead played, he would skate across Utah Lake to attend dances in Provo. Patience, back then, was a virtue.

"It's such an 'immediacy-type' society that we tend to forget where we came from," says Devon Sanderson, Thompson's son-in-law.

Thompson was from LaVerkin, near St. George. Holmstead grew up on the west side of Utah Lake in a remote area called Pelican Point. Neither played on a hardwood court until reaching high school.

Holmstead, the son of Scandinavian immigrants, graduated from Lehi High School in a class of 11. At the University of Utah he led his team to the Rocky Mountain Conference basketball title. He went on to a successful career teaching and coaching at American Fork High and managing the town baseball team.

Thompson wasn't recruited by Utah's big colleges, so he took the only scholarship available — at Montana State. The Bobcats won what was then considered the national championship, in 1929. That year he was named national college Player of the Year. He went on to coach at high schools in Montana and Idaho and open a sporting goods/business equipment store in Idaho Falls.

There was no such thing as a calculator, but he did have adding machines on which to figure his team stats.

Armed with nomination materials on both athletes, this year the committee had no qualms. Which is a good thing. Thompson is already in five other halls of fame, including the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Holmstead was the first player in University of Utah history to score 30 points in a game.

It's only fitting they would be inducted together. Both lived by their principles. Holmstead honored the Bible, abstained from tobacco and alcohol and championed the underprivileged. His son, Earl G. Holmstead, wrote in his nomination letter that his father's credo was this: "If you accept a job or position, or give your word, you need to live by your decision to the best of your ability, until the work is done."

Clearly, there was no such thing as sports agents back then.

Holmstead was so conscientious that when offered the head basketball and football coaching job at BYU — though he wasn't LDS — he declined, saying that since he might not agree with everything the church believed, he shouldn't be teaching its athletes.

Likewise, Thompson patterned his life after a statement from LDS President Heber J. Grant. As a young boy he attended a meeting in which the church leader declared, "What you persist in doing becomes easy for you to do. Not that the nature of the thing has changed, but your ability to do has increased."

Which apparently includes being inducted into halls of fame.

So after being forgotten once, they made the list this year. Sure, it's a little late. But they probably wouldn't mind.

When they played, patience was still a virtue.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com