Before Josh Heytvelt lost his first game Saturday in the elite men’s division of Hoopfest, the former Gonzaga big man had touched a basketball maybe five times in the last several months.
He didn’t play well, he said, wearing a sleeve on a left knee that had undergone surgery in 2016, ultimately keeping him from playing at the high level he enjoyed in college and with his pro teams overseas.
Heytvelt, 32, now considers the game a hobby as he runs a Nine Mile Falls-based trucking business, BCL Roadrunner.
“This is definitely lighting a fire for me to get back into playing shape,” joked the 6-foot-10 Heytvelt, who still towered over opponents Saturday.
Heyvelt, a three-year starter at Gonzaga who helped the Bulldogs reach the Sweet 16 in 2009, teamed up with with former University of Montana guard Shawn Stockton and former Whitworth guard Steve Stockton.
A Clarkston native, Heytvelt even joined forces with his old high school rival Brent Russum, the Lewiston product who went on to play on the offensive line at the University of Montana.
Heytvelt, who hadn’t played in Hoopfest since 2014, was candid after a loss to Figi Water, a team stocked with ex-NCAA Division I talent, including former UCLA player Alex Schrempf.
“I don’t think we have a great chance of winning it this year,” Heytvelt said. “But it’s fun to be out here and playing again with friends.”
Heytvelt’s last professional stint was in Japan in 2015, and his last affiliation with the NBA was in 2013 when he played with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Summer League.
A few of his former Gonzaga teammates were in town for the TBT, where the Gonzaga alumni squad, Few Good Men, faced alumni squads from the University of Utah and rival Saint Mary’s. Heyvelt said he’d like to return to the TBT when ready.
“When I feel my knee is ready to go, I’d like to play in it again,” he said. “Maybe next year.”
Right now, though, he said he’s content with this stage of adulthood where basketball isn’t the most important thing.
“It’s a love-hate thing, really,” Heytvelt said. “I love the game, but it beats me up physically to play anymore.”
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