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Beyond the score

Sun., June 29, 2008

Bobby Homminga was tired. He was hot. The only thing that got him through the rest of his Hoopfest game was the memory of his son.

Tanner Homminga died after suffering an unexpected brain aneurysm in March. On Saturday, friends and family fielded six teams to play in honor of the 14-year-old East Valley Middle School student.

“The whole weekend’s about him,” Bobby Homminga said. “I’m playing for him. I know I should be watching him, but I’m playing for him.”

He also watched Team Tanner Three, a group of Tanner’s middle school friends led by his AAU coach, Stacy Boyd. Looking over the court was a picture of Tanner printed on the backboard.

Boyd had chipped in to sponsor the court in Tanner’s name. And he wanted it to be a surprise for Tanner’s parents.

“We’re just expecting to keep Tanner’s spirit alive,” Boyd said. “He’s just one of those kids that everyone wishes they could coach.”

Of course, the day was difficult for Bobby Homminga, he said. But he did his part to immortalize his son.

Many people get tattoos – Bobby Homminga made a North Carolina basketball shirt with Tanner’s picture on the back. The Tar Heels were Tanner’s favorite team.

Wildcat on wheels

Lareese Santos used to be able to play basketball, tennis and volleyball. Then she was diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome and several forms of arthritis, she said.

But the University of Arizona junior is back on the court, on scholarship and playing for the Wildcats women’s wheelchair basketball team.

“I think it’s a lot more challenging,” Santos said, comparing it to everyday basketball. “I think it’s a lot more fun for me.”

Plus, she said, she’s better at wheelchair basketball than able-body basketball.

The Whidbey Island, Wash., native whizzed between opponents and threw down baskets from her wheelchair Saturday at Hoopfest, helping her team, Fresh Take, beat a team called Walk.

In memory of

It would have been Ryan Sigua’s first Hoopfest. He’d been looking forward to it. He and his friends had been practicing basketball at school and on the street.

And when Sigua died in April, his friend Adam Koch didn’t know if he could muster the strength to ever hit the court again.

“It would be weird without him,” Koch said.

But then his friends rallied and convinced Koch to play. Sigua’s cousin Elwin Castro took the open spot. And though they lost their game Saturday, Ryan’s Team still felt they had captured a victory, however small.

They sported pink shirts with Sigua’s picture. Friends from Cheney High School were on the sidelines supporting them. They are still recovering from when Sigua died of an aortic valve malfunction, which flooded his heart.

Sigua, 18, was raised in the Philippines and “was one of those kids who has all the qualities you really want to embody,” family friend Lenore Koch said. “He had such an exuberance.”

Cougar sighting

Aron Baynes and Caleb Forrest walked so fast through the dense Hoopfest crowds, people had to jog to catch up and shake their hands.

Perhaps their minor celebrity as Washington State basketball players caused people to give them leeway. Or, perhaps, it was because their legs are so long.

Either way, Baynes and Forrest were rushing to the Nike Center Court for an autograph session at lunchtime.

“(We’re) just trying to meet with all the Cougar fans there are out here,” Baynes said. “Just showing them that we’re supporting them when they play.”

The entire team is in Pullman this summer, so they came up north to check out Hoopfest.

“There are so many people from all over the state that came over here to play basketball, it’s exciting to see,” Forrest said. “(It looks) a little stressful when driving, and trying to find your court, though.”

Playing through it

James Pittman can jump OK, but he can’t run very fast. His metal prosthetic right leg, a gleaming piece of hardware with a bendable knee, doesn’t have quite the spring he needs.

“It slows me down, but it’s still a lot of fun,” he said.

His team, S’AWOL (which stands for “Skateboarding: A way of life”), did not play on a court for disabled players, and his teammates were able-bodied. Though S’AWOL lost, Pittman had a good time playing, he said.

Pittman, 24, lost his leg in a car wreck when he was 16 years old, he said. Now, his team’s name says it all: They’re avid skateboarders.

Small forward

Ask Erik Farias, 7, what his favorite thing about playing basketball is, and he’ll give the obvious answer: scoring.

His favorite player is LeBron James, and he might just be on his way to superstardom himself. Farias set screens and drove hard to the basket, propelling his Lil Zags over the Bellevue Lightning 15-4.

The Rosewood first-graders – Farias, Brett Bacon, Pierce Christensen and Simon Stiles – practiced four times in preparation for Hoopfest. And, not long ago, the families in their neighborhood held a two-day mini basketball tournament for the kids, said Farias’ father, Ramon Farias.

On Saturday, Ramon Farias coached the players from the sideline, preparing them for the next level of Lil Zags, a basketball program in the Mead area.

“They’re the next generation of Lil Zags,” Ramon Farias said.

Hot enough for ya?

Think it was hot just walking around downtown on Saturday?

Just tell that to Hale Lake, who was manning three hot woks at the Island Noodles food booth in Riverfront Park. He started work at 5:30 a.m., and laughed when asked what time he got to go home.

But, he was modest about the heat.

“It’s nice we’re in the shade, actually,” Lake said. “It’s the poor players on the asphalt that have the problem.”

The temperature reached 93 degrees in Spokane on Saturday.

Hoops politics

Scott Curtis, Jason Schaeffer and Darrel Martin were leaning against a building along Broadway Avenue, chatting and watching some basketball.

Every once and a while, someone would walk by and say, “Hey, I like your shirts!”

Printed in green ink on yellow fabric was an image of Clay Bennett, the Seattle Supersonics chairman, with a big screw drilled into his head. Above were the words, “Screw Clay.”

“We don’t like Clay Bennett,” Schaeffer said.

Apparently not.

“We’d like to see the Sonics stay in town,” he said.


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