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

SportsCenter to broadcast passion of Hoopfest Sunday morning

ESPN anchor and Washington State alumna Jaymee Sire speaks during a live broadcast from Hoopfest in Spokane. (Kathy Plonka)

Spokane is ready for its close-up.

For three hours this morning, the nation will be getting its sports news from the intersection of Stevens Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard, where the ESPN SportsCenter studio is standing by.

The iconic set got an appreciative look Saturday from Hoopfest players and fans as they walked from one court to another. Hundreds more are expected – no, urged – to cram the set with banners and signs by the time the three-hour segment begins at 7 a.m. In other words, ESPN hopes it will generate the same

atmosphere as College GameDay.

“We want to see the passion,” said Jim Bowdon, the executive producer of ESPN’s six-week road show, which begins in Spokane and ends in late July with the WNBA All-Star Game in Connecticut.

In between, SportsCenter will cover a hot dog-eating contest in New York; a lawn games championship in Knoxville, Tennessee; and a national horseshoe tournament in Topeka, Kansas.

The idea, Bowdon said, is to “tell some stories.” and offer an alternative to showing nonstop highlights from major league baseball.

“We wanted to take a different approach – not that there’s anything wrong with showing 24/7 baseball highlights,” Bowdon joked.

Today, the nation will get its breakfast sports news with a Northwest flavor. The show will feature taped interviews with Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin, plus a father-son piece on John and David Stockton.

Live segments will include interviews with former Eastern Washington basketball star and recent NBA draft pick Tyler Harvey (via satellite), Hoopfest founders Rick Betts and Jerry Schmidt, and former Gonzaga basketball stars Dan Dickau, Blake Stepp and Matt Santangelo.

Also on tap is an analysis of the 3-on-3 game from ESPN analyst Sean Farnham, and a demonstration from professional dunker Jordan Kilganon, who will unveil a new dunk live during the show. The Canadian’s “Scorpion” dunk video on YouTube has more than three million views.

The change of pace is great news for SportsCenter anchor Jaymee Sire, a Washington State alumna who’s enjoying a rare chance to revisit the Inland Northwest. Indeed, she’d just finished an interview with Irvin on Saturday morning when she bumped into a sorority sister from WSU.

“This is the best thing that could have happened,” said Siree, who’ll return to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, after her Hoopfest assignment.

Since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications from WSU in 2002, the Great Falls, Montana, native won awards in California before making the leap to ESPN in 2013. Now she’s a fixture on the morning edition of SportsCenter, and hosts Highlight Express on ESPNEWS.

Today she’ll be front and center, back in the Inland Northwest for only the second time since graduation. Like her colleagues, Sire hopes for that GameDay atmosphere, including the Washington State flag that’s flown during every show.

“I’m still a big Cougar fan, and I know it’ll be there,” Sire said.