DAYTON - Question: What do politics and basketball have in common?
Answer: Running is required.
Just ask local attorney Terry Nealey, a 63-year-old hoops junkie who has spent the better part of two decades bouncing back and forth between basketball gymnasiums and one political arena or another.
Nealey, who grew up on a farm in Whitman County and graduated from Lacrosse High School in 1965, got into politics by running for Columbia County Prosecutor in 1983. He won that election and was successful in three subsequent campaigns, serving a total of 16 years in that capacity.
After a decade devoted to his private practice and dabbling in coaching basketball at Dayton High School, the Gonzaga University Law School graduate decided in 2008 to broaden his political horizons. He ran against Democratic incumbent Bill Grant for the 16th District seat in the state Legislature.
He lost, however, as voters sent Grant back to Olympia for a 12th two-year term.
But Grant died early in 2009 and his daughter, Laura Grant, was appointed to replace her father. A special election was held that fall and Nealey again challenged for the seat.
This time he won.
"It has been a great experience. I've enjoyed it," Nealey said of his first year in Olympia.
The 16th District seat was up for grabs again this year, but no Democratic challenger stepped forward to run against Nealey. So, after back-to-back years of vigorous campaigning, Nealey, a Republican, is assured of two more years in the Legislature without lifting a finger this fall.
But it is not in Nealey's nature to take it easy on himself.
"I learned an awful lot in my first year," he said. "I feel like I am a lot better prepared now to go into the next session.
"But even though nobody filed against me in June, I'm still going to get out and about and meet people. I want to know what their issues are and what their problems are. I just won't have to campaign as hard as I have the last two years."
Nealey's work ethic and attitude were no doubt formed during his early years in basketball-crazy Whitman County where young boys were expected to develop their dribbling and shooting skills the year around and grow up dreaming of playing in the bright lights of Spokane at the Class B state tournament.
Terry and his identical twin brother Tedd did just that as seniors, leading the Lacrosse Wildcats to the state tournament and an eighth-place finish in the spring of 1965.
Together they enrolled at Whitworth College in Spokane, where they played basketball briefly for the Pirates before transferring to Washington State University in Pullman. Although the 5-foot-9 twins weren't cut out for Pac-10-style basketball, that didn't mean they were about to give up the game they loved.
The brothers continued to play basketball on intramural teams at WSU. And after enlisting in the U.S. Army - Terry wound up in Korea, Tedd in Viet Nam - they played on military teams.
Once back in the states, Terry enrolled at Gonzaga and received his law degree in 1974. He practiced for one year in Spokane, then set up shop in Dayton in 1976 where he still lives today. Tedd makes his home in Spokane and operates the family's 800-acre hay operation near Lacrosse.
But basketball continues to be a big part of their lives.
"Here in Dayton we had a town-team league for a few years," Terry Nealey said. "I also played in the Walla Walla City League. Anymore, I play about three times a week, usually just pick-up games in our high school gym, and usually against much younger players.
"My brother has followed a similar path. He's just as avid about basketball as I am."
And they've found company.
Over the years, they've met up with others in their age bracket with a similar love of the game and a determination to continue playing it. And in the last few years, they've formed teams that have competed in high-level senior tournaments.
Three years ago, they traveled to St. George, Utah, where they played in the Huntsman World Senior Games and brought home the first-place trophy in the 60-plus age division.
"There were nine of us, and we were basically all from Eastern Washington," Terry Nealey said. "We had a little advantage that year because several of us had just turned 60 and we could still run the floor pretty well."
Six-foot-8 Al Reiners of Boise, who had played collegiality at Nebraska, was the only non-Eastern Washington player on that team. Others on the roster included Randy Dolven of Kennewick, a former Little All-American at Eastern Oregon College in La Grande; Prescott orchardist Dave Hovde, originally from Selah and a former University of Washington basketball player; Darryl Knott of Wenatchee, who grew up in Endicott and played against the Nealeys in high school; Jerry Skaife, a University of Idaho basketball product who later coached at Washtucna High and at Spokane Falls CC; Dick Rubenser of Starbuck, a UW track and field standout and the father of former Wa-Hi hoop stars Dana and Kati Rubenser; and Jerry Reeves of Pullman.
Many of the same players made a return trip to St. George in 2008 and placed fourth. Terry Nealey, however, was in the midst of campaigning at the time and had to skip that competition.
But earlier this month, the remnants of the team - several had graduated to a 65-plus team - entered the World Maxi Pan American Games in Eugene, Ore., and came away with the silver medal.
Going by the name of Spokane Sports, the team opened the tournament with a 67-64 loss to Brazil but bounced back to defeat the Portland All-Stars 67-64, Costa Rica 72-67 in overtime and Chile 58-57 to decide the second-place trophy.
The Nealey brothers and Dolven were the lone holdovers on the team. Others on the roster with college basketball resumes included Dave Pounds, Eastern Washington University; Ed Fredenberg, Oregon State University; Mike Bourne, University of Puget Sound; and Dan Steward, Washington State University. Durand Splater of Seattle and Jim McClinton of Spokane rounded out the roster.
"It was a great experience, especially with the language barrier," Terry Nealey said. "Also, we had never played international rules before. It was very physical play, but we were competitive in every game."
The next World Maxi Pan Am Games will be played in Brazil.
"It's something we'd like to do, but I'm not sure we can make it happen," Nealey said.
In the meantime, it will be back to the local high school gym and 6 a.m. workouts before the workday begins.
"It's just a good way to stay in shape," Nealey said.
Even when he's in Olympia, he finds the time to stay in shape by finding a pick-up basketball game.
"You can find games at the YMCA and also the Tumwater Country Club," Nealey said. "There are very few fellow legislators to play against, but there are certainly some quality athletes among the aides and employees over there."
And since he has no plans to leave the political arena any time soon, it figures that hustling up and down the hardwood won't be the only kind of running Nealey will be doing in the coming years.