For some of the thousands who flocked to Hoopfest this past weekend, getting downtown was as simple as dribbling a ball down the sidewalk. Others went to greater lengths.
Nathan Briley traveled from Tacoma, while his brother Ricardo Antoine came all the way from Los Angeles to play with family on their team, “Ballin All Day.”
“It’s just good vibes,” Briley said. “It’s competitive, but it’s not so competitive that it’s not fun.”
Almost the entire family came out for the event, Antoine said.
“It’s a really great way to bring people together and get everyone out of the house for a day or two,” he said.
Friendship also brought scores to the court.
Redmond Groves, Kyle Moen, Colton Saben and Brad Johnson met at WSU. Decked out in Hawaiian shirts, they came to the court Sunday morning under the team name “Hawaiian Punch.”
The shirts didn’t have any special meaning, but were a fun way to stand out, Groves said.
“We just like Hawaiian shirts,” he said. “It’s simple, it’s easy, and we got a lot of compliments on it.”
This is the group’s second year playing together.
Keeping up with demand
For attendees who didn’t join in on court, there was still plenty to do – namely, eating one’s way through dozens of food stands packed between every crowded court. A continuous stream of customers lined up for shaved ice, pizza, sandwiches and ice cream.
It was very busy for the entrepreneurs and staff running the stands. Christmas Thompson, the manager of Pizza Rita on Riverside Avenue, set up an additional stand outside to cope with the increased demand.
Normally, Thompson runs her Riverside shop with two people. For Hoopfest weekend, she had eight.
“Yesterday I was here by 6:30 a.m., where usually I’m not here until 8:30 a.m.,” she said. “Usually we do between 40 and 100 (pizzas) on a regular day, and we did over 300 yesterday.”
Lori Freeman, a manager for Ben and Jerry’s in Spokane, said she thinks she served around 500 people at her stand, although she doesn’t know how many might have been served at other ice cream trucks.
“We had four locations down here this weekend, and they were all super busy,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to tell at the other locations.”
Children are her best customers, she said.
“Our favorite part is always when the kids come, and they’ve won their T-shirts, and they get a big waffle cone and show off their shirt,” Freeman said.
In the medical tent
Over 200 medical volunteers worked roughly 300 shifts in four medical tents spread throughout the event, and provided free medical care to about 900 participants as of Sunday afternoon. Over 100 people received X-rays, with dozens of confirmed fractures.
Months of planning went into making sure athletes could be treated without a long wait, said Kevin Maloney, media coordinator for MultiCare, the event’s first aid provider.
“We essentially overstaffed to make sure we could get people in and out as quickly as possible,” he said. “It really was all hands on deck.”
One tent kept an injury board posted outside, tallying injuries by type. By the end of the day Sunday medical volunteers had treated 915 patients over the event’s two days, including about 242 sprains or strains, 192 wounds and 113 blisters.
The moderate temperatures meant fewer heat-related illnesses, said Nicolas Strasser, the event’s medical director, but various strains, tears, Achilles and ACL injuries are more common when people are feeling energetic and try to spring off the ground.
“Weather oftentimes will drive the types of injuries we see,” he said.
Hundreds of helping hands
As always, the event rode on the ever-busy backs of volunteer. Hundreds worked to officiate, keep score, run check-ins, and to set up and take down courts.
John Jaeger, a former girls high school basketball coach in Tekoa, said he began volunteering three years ago.
“My daughter lives in Montana, and she brought a team from Choteau,” he said. “That’s quite an investment. Three days here in Spokane, meals, travel and all that. The guy that was the court monitor – nice kid, really nice kid – probably had never played the game or seen the game, you know? He had no idea what to do.”
That made Jaeger decide to volunteer, he said.
“As soon as I didn’t have a grandchild playing, I said this is what I’m going to do until I get too old,” he said. “I’m 75, so I’m getting up there.”
Jaeger said he loves to see families coming to Hoopfest together.
“Yesterday I started at 8 a.m., and I got done at 6 p.m. So I did 19 games,” Jaeger said.
Sunday he got a break, but still spent several hours officiating teams of young girls in the morning and early afternoon.
“You sit and watch all these dads work with their kids – their little girls,” he said. “There are times when parents sort of tell you how to officiate. Which is OK, I don’t mind. I’m sort of crusty, so I don’t listen to a lot of it. But I’m glad they’re here, and they’re involved.”
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