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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hoopfest notes: If this Hoosier wins, it won’t be biggest title

Triple-digit heat didn’t deter basketball players from playing hard in Hoopfest in Spokane on Saturday. The downtown event concludes today. (Kathy Plonka)
Jim Allen And Thomas Clouse Staff Writers

While it wasn’t exactly a scene from “Hoosiers,” Steve Eyl, who helped Indiana win the 1987 national championship, played in his first Hoopfest Saturday and helped former tournament director Rick Steltenpohl to a 2-0 finish for the day.

“My kids watch the (national championship) highlights and all they do is make fun of my shorts,” said Eyl, who was the sixth man on that squad and averaged three points per game as a junior on the Hoosiers team that finished 30-4.

Eyl, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, finally joined in the world’s largest 3-on-3 outdoor tournament on the suggestion of Kyle Baird of Spokane.

“At 49, if you don’t keep doing it, you just get old,” Eyl said. “The deal is if you get a sweat and you get to the airport uninjured, you’ve won the tournament.”

He said he doesn’t think his old coach, Bobby Knight, would have appreciated the Hoopfest format.

“He’s too much of a purist for playground basketball,” Eyl said. “But Spokane does a great job.”

As for Steltenpohl, who led his Let it Be team in scoring in the second game, he said it was his first Hoopfest as simply a player.

“It feels great to just play,” he said. “I always played before but I had so many other things to worry about. To focus just on playing feels just awesome.”

Santangelo advances

The man who replaced Steltenpohl, Matt Santangelo, won both of his games Saturday. The well-heeled team of Santangelo, Blake Stepp, Casey Calvary and Robert Lippman will try to fight their way to Nike Center Court to play in temperatures expected to be near 107 degrees.

“We are definitely on high alert,” Santangelo said of the Hoopfest staff. “But I think the volunteers are withstanding the heat well. We’ll keep a close eye out.”

Coaches’ hoop dreams

Do college basketball coaches still have game?

Can they ditch the clipboard and turn those X’s and O’s into some points of their own?

The questions were posed Saturday morning on Elite Court No. 3, where Whitworth coach Matt Logie and Community Colleges of Spokane coach Jeremy Groth played before an interested audience that included some of their former players.

“I can’t wait to see how he holds up,” joked Mack Larkin, a former player of Logie’s who stood in the shade while the glare was fixed on Logie and his teammates.

And while it wasn’t exactly a clinic, Logie’s team, Jesse’s Painting, got the job done with a 20-12 win over Wheatland Bank.

“I think I’ve played less than 10 times since college,” said Logie, who joined Groth, former CCS coach Clint Hull and Rhett Soliday, the coach at Vanguard University in California.

Logie, a star at Mercer Island High School, went on to be the eighth-highest scorer in Lehigh University history by the time he graduated in 2003, but admits his game took a back seat “after I launched myself full-steam into coaching.”

Logie wouldn’t have played at all but for the loss of another player. “They needed someone to keep the seat warm,” said Logie, who got a late invite from Hull, who happens to be a neighbor.

“The basketball community is a small one,” said Logie, who warmed up to the competition in a hurry and showed some emotion after being called for a foul late in the game.

After the game, Groth put some perspective on coaches as players.

“I think we’re smarter (than the competition), but I don’t know if that’s the case of not,” said Groth, who won an NAIA title as a player with Concordia in 2003. “I’ll let you know after the tournament,” Groth said.

Courtside reunions

For coaches and former players, Hoopfest offered a chance at many sweaty reunions.

A block away from Logie’s game, former Whitworth players Dustin McConnell, Zach Payne, Colton McCargar and Taylor Farnsworth were also competing in the Elite Division.

Elsewhere, former Eastern Washington football players Jeff Minnerly and Ashton Clark and Greg Herd joined together on another team.

In the women’s Elite Division, former Gonzaga players Janelle Beckering, Jazmine Redmon, Shannon Reader, Amanda Brown and Tatriano Lorenzo were playing on various teams.

Meanwhile, Gonzaga women’s coach Lisa Fortier, and her husband, assistant coach Craig Fortier, were taking in the action from the shade.

“It’s fun to watch the action,” Lisa Fortier said before heading off to watch another assistant, Stacy Clinesmith.