Forty-five blocks of downtown Spokane are closed. Hundreds of tournament brackets are posted by the Red Wagon. Thousands of people are walking through Riverfront Park wearing the same shirt.
It’s official: Hoopfest is here for its 30th year. And the excitement around the “greatest basketball weekend on Earth” hasn’t dwindled a bit.
The beginning of basketball competition came early, too, with eight teams competing for $5,000 in an International Basketball Federation-sponsored 3×3 tournament on the center court Friday afternoon. Among the players was former St. Mary’s guard Calvin Hermanson, who put up 3-pointers with former Gonzaga player Josh Perkins watching from the stands.
As opposed to Hoopfest’s 3-on-3 rules, 3×3 is an especially fast-paced version of the game that will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It features a 12-second shot clock and no checking the ball after scoring.
But even with other changes, like an ever-improving app for navigating the courts, and big names like Kevin Durant coming to town, the spirit of the weekend remains the same, said volunteer Pam Schermerhorn, a 16-year Hoopfest veteran and supervisor at the team check-in table.
“What hasn’t changed is the smile on a third-grader playing for the first time,” she said.
Schermerhorn said her favorite part of the weekend is being at the check-in table on Friday.
“I love team check-in because everybody’s in a good mood,” she said. “Nobody’s lost a game; nobody’s twisted an ankle.”
Asher and Avi West, 14 and 12, respectively, are among the nearly 24,000 players hoping to bring home a championship shirt on Sunday.
“We’re going to take it,” Avi said.
The brothers started playing in Hoopfest at the first chance they got, third grade, but switched from competing in brackets with other highly competitive amateur players to forming a co-ed team with their cousin a few years ago.
“The dynamic of co-ed brought back the enjoyment of Hoopfest,” their mother, Laura West, said.
Now they have started a trend, and other local amateur players are doing the same, she added.
An hour after the 3×3 tournament concluded Friday night, volunteers moved more than 400 basketball hoops waiting by the curbs into position. For the first Hoopfest, it took all night and until 10 minutes before the first game to get a fraction of the hoops in place.
“Just to check in, we have probably over 100 volunteers,” Schermerhorn said, with about 3,000 total pitching in for the weekend.
After the hoops are all set up, Schermerhorn said she revels in the anticipation of walking by all the empty courts on Saturday morning.
The West brothers can’t wait to get on the court, either. They already have their sights set on playing on center court someday.
“I love basketball,” Asher said. “It’s like my family.”
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