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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga reunion will give fans chance to see ‘old’ Zags play in Hoopfest charity game

Hoopfest director Matt Santangelo is helping to organize a charity basketball game on the eve of Hoopfest that will feature all former Gonzaga players. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Hoopfest director Matt Santangelo is helping to organize a charity basketball game on the eve of Hoopfest that will feature all former Gonzaga players. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

While Gonzaga fans have always received a little taste over the years of watching former Bulldogs players competing in Hoopfest, they are about to get a full helping.

The world’s largest outdoor 3-on-3 basketball tournament will now be kicked off June 24 by a Gonzaga alumni game featuring many of the former players and those still playing professionally. They will play in a 5-on-5 exhibition game for charity.

“Coach (Mark) Few really wanted to have an alumni weekend, an alumni event of sorts,” said former Zag Matt Santangelo, who now leads Hoopfest. “He approached us last year to try to create some momentum around Hoopfest weekend.”

“It’s another way as alums and former players to give back to the community of Spokane which been so great to us for so long.”

Led by former player Jeremy Pargo, and opposing captain Dan Dickau, the call went out to all former players from the program’s recent past and beyond.

“We’ve invited a lot of other folks who may not want to play or those (that) people may not want to see play. I want to say we have about every year of the 18-year (NCAA Tournament) run represented,” Santangelo said. “Some older dogs will be involved taking tickets … or involved in some of the contests.”

Pargo (2005-09) said he and Dickau (2000-02) are hoping to televise their team selections.

“I was responsible for getting guys more around my class to come back and participate,” Pargo said. “I’ve got (Kevin) Pangos. He said he’ll play. Kelly (Olynyk) is hurt, but he’ll be there. Rob (Sacre) is going to be in the 3-point contest. We’ve got Micah (Downs), Austin (Daye), Ira (Brown), a lot of guys.”

Other players expected include Gary Bell Jr., Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray, Casey Calvary and Derek Raivio, he said.

Pargo, who said “Of COURSE I’m playing” a full octave higher than his normal tone, already started talking smack about Pangos, who was the point guard who last led Gonzaga to the Elite 8 in 2015.

“I think we would have beat them pretty bad,” Pargo said of Pangos’ last team.

Dickau kept the trash talk rolling.

“Is he back in the states? It’s time for him to lose,” Dickau said of Pargo. “If Jeremy would have played my 01 or 02 team, they would have lost, too.”

Santangelo said spectators will be charged a $10 fee to watch the game with all the proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club of Spokane and the Ignite Basketball Association, which is an outreach program between Hoopfest and Spokane Public Schools.

After the game, spectators can then mingle, get autographs from the players enjoy locally brewed beers at Hop Fest, Santangelo said.

The former Zags had some talk about putting the event at the Spokane Arena, but decided the venue was too big, he said.

“We decided to build it at the convention center,” Santangelo said. “We really wanted to keep it downtown and take advantage of all those folks coming in for Hoopfest weekend.”

The game will also serve as a practice, of sorts, as several former Zags who have committed to play as “Few Good Men” in the 64-team field that includes $2 million worth of prize money in The Basketball Tournament, which starts in July.

“The program is at such a point where people want to celebrate the program in different ways,” Dickau said. The fans “want to see some of these guys who are still playing. At the same time, when you collectively put all these guys together, you have the chance to raise a little bit of money for charity.

“Hopefully,” Dickau continued, “we can make it worthwhile enough to make plans for year two to make it better.”

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