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Wednesday, May 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Elite divisions of Hoopfest loaded with talent

UPDATED: Fri., June 23, 2017

Spokane Club’s Curtis Carlson is helped up by Matt Brunell, left, and Brian Rabas against Boiler Room during their championship game at the 2016 Hoopfest. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Club’s Curtis Carlson is helped up by Matt Brunell, left, and Brian Rabas against Boiler Room during their championship game at the 2016 Hoopfest. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Hoopfest’s list of more than 100 elite teams features plenty of familiar faces.

A few returning champions are back to have another run for a title, and several former Zags and Eastern Washington standouts will also make an appearance in Spokane’s 3-on-3 tournament this weekend.

No surprise, this year’s men’s group of 6-foot-and-over players is the largest group in the open divisions. The division features 54 teams stacked with collegiate and professional players from all over the country.

Last year’s champion Spokane Club returns to Hoopfest as team Bud Light, featuring Curtis Carlson, Garrett Stocsher, Bryan Rabas and Matt Brunell.

Brunell, a 6-9 forward from Cheney, played at Eastern Washington before playing professionally in Europe. Strocsher played for Wenatchee Valley and then went on to play in the NAIA. Rabas was a standout shooter at Eastern Oregon and Carlson started his collegiate career on the courts at Walla Walla Community College before transferring to a university in San Diego.

Previous title winners Roots Sports Academy (2014) and MammasBoys (2011), made up of four brothers from Tacoma, are also making an appearance this year.

Roots Sports Academy features Northern Arizona alumni Kelly Golob, Josh Wilson and Ryan McDade, who have played a combined 13 years of professional basketball outside the U.S. Team newcomer Casey Frandsen played collegiate basketball for Portland where he set the program-record for 3-pointers made at 211.

LeeHayes is another team to watch out for. The team’s players include ex-Zag Mike Hart, Northwest Christian School and Spokane Falls Community College standout Robert “Big Shot” Lippman, and former Eastern Washington players Marc Axton and Parker Kelly.

Six-foot-and-under elite

This year’s 52-team spread in the 6-foot-and-under elite group welcomes back Desert Horse, which has taken the Hoopfest crown the last three years. If Desert Horse can pull off another title this year, it will join Hoop Hearted (2003-2006) as the only two teams to have four consecutive titles at Hoopfest.

Desert Horse’s roster includes JR and Zachary Camel, Preston Wynne and Michael Jackson, all of whom reside in Polson, Montana. Wynne, a 6-1 guard from Wellpinit, first played at Spokane Community College before becoming a starter at Vanguard University. He took his career to the professional level in Germany in 2014.

Charlies Gold also brings back some returning champions. Craig Hanson won the title in 2011 while playing for Welcome Home Spokane.

Justin Bright, who played at Central Valley, and his older brother Daniel, who played collegiate basketball at the Community Colleges of Spokane, took the 2010 title under the team name Bo Ceilings.

Charlies Gold added former collegiate basketball player Stephen Vargas to the team’s roster.

Women’s elite

The women’s group is made up of only five teams this year. Former Zag Janelle Bekkering is a standout in the group, playing for YYC Canada. Bekkering talled over 500 rebounds in her career and is 19th on Gonzaga’s all-time scoring list with more than 1,000 points. Bekkering won the women’s elite title in 2015 playing for SLECU ZagBabes.

Bekkering is joined by fellow Stephanie Price and Kimberly Lee, a 5-10 guard who has a played professionally in Canada.

Lady Monstars is another elite team to keep an eye on this weekend. Former Eastern Washington players Kylie Huerta and Laura Hughes make up half the roster. They are joined by Central Washington standout forward Courtney Johnson and Chanel Combronero, who playing as a guard for Blue Mountain and Bellevue.

Co-ed elite

This is Hoopfest’s eighth year with a co-ed elite division. Last year’s champion BAMM returns to defend its title. Matt and Mike Dorr, originally from Spokane, will play alongside Andrew Ryan and his sister Brianne in the elite group made up of 12 teams.

Andrew played at Campbell University from 2010-2014. The 6-4 guard currently plays professionally for the Polish team Turow Zgorzelec.

Brianne played at Eastern Washington for three years beginning in 2008. During her time as an Eagle, the 5-8 guard was named to the All-Big Sky First Team and was selected as the Big Sky MVP and the Big Sky Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

Former Gonzaga star Heather Bowman is the only woman on the team FarmGirlFit, named after the local women’s crossfit gym where Bowman coaches. The four-time First Team All-West Coast Conference player broke Gonzaga’s and the conference’s scoring record with 2,165 points in four seasons at GU (2007-2010).

Bowman’s teammates Stefan Dickason and James Laurence both played basketball at Western University. Also on the roster is Ryan Leong, who played two years of basketball and baseball at Seattle Prep.

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