The Gonzaga alumni basketball game that serves as the tip-off to Hoopfest weekend is back with a new wrinkle: An opponent.
Former Zags will tangle with ex-Washington Huskies on June 23 at the Convention Center. It was an all-Zags affair last year when Team Pargo, led by Jeremy Pargo’s 31 points, beat Team Dickau 108-93.
“We thought it would be fun to engage another school and alumni base,” Hoopfest director and former Zags point guard Matt Santangelo said. “Last year was competitive and it was, ‘How do we keep pushing it forward and keep it really competitive?’ ”
Santangelo got in touch with former Husky Donald Watts and there was mutual interest in putting the game together. Santangelo and Watts competed against each other as youngsters and in college. Watts has conducted Hoopfest clinics and works with kids who play in the world’s largest outdoor 3-on-3 tournament.
Slick Watts, Donald’s father and a former Seattle SuperSonic, was an ambassador at the first Hoopfest.
Gonzaga’s roster tentatively includes Jeremy Pargo (captain), Gary Bell Jr., Micah Downs, Eric McClellan, Mike Hart, Kyle Dranginis, Ira Brown, Erroll Knight, Steven Gray, Robert Sacre and J.P. Batista. Knight transferred to Gonzaga from Washington.
The Huskies’ tentative roster includes Watts (captain), Justin Dentmon, Bobby Jones, Mike Jensen, Tre Simmons, Malik Dime, Darnell Gant, Justin Holiday, Robert Upshaw and possibly Nate Robinson.
Several players on both teams battled during their collegiate careers. After a nine-year absence, Gonzaga has thumped Washington each of the last two years, the first meeting in the Bahamas and last year a 98-71 decision in Spokane. The second game of a four-game series will take place this winter in Seattle.
More than 40 former Zags played or were on hand for last year’s inaugural alumni game.
“We had such a good mix of guys,” Santangelo said. “What it turns into is Sunday ball with John (Stockton) so you know it’s going to be competitive. When you play that hard there’s less risk for injury.”
Santangelo is open to incorporating other area schools into future alumni games, possibly even staging a four-team tournament.
“This event has legs for a few years,” he said.
Santangelo has considered moving the game to a bigger venue but it fits nicely at the Convention Center.
“The challenge is it’s not ready for the (Spokane) Arena and we want to keep it more intimate,” said Santangelo, adding that Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center is probably the appropriate size but there are potential NCAA compliance issues with the presence of recruitable athletes.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com.