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

A Grip on Sports: Hey, Washington is No. 1 in something, though, sadly, it’s not connected to professional sports

A GRIP ON SPORTS • How often can the state of Washington say we’re No. 1 in the U.S. in anything? Population? Are you kidding? Evergreen trees? Maybe, if you don’t include Alaska. Overheated discussions with silly arguments on both sides? Ya, that one might be true, even with stiff competition from, if we counted correctly, 49 other states.


• We found a story this morning on gas prices, which doesn’t have anything to do with sports, unless you are a parent trying to drive your kids to soccer or baseball or sports camp. For the first time since 2005, the Evergreen State tops the nation in highest average price per gallon.

Oh, sure, the West Side drives that, as it does just about everything in Washington other than wheat, apple and wine production. Still, waking up this morning to this news was more than wallet-opening. And quite a contrast to the professional sports teams in this state, all of which seem to have run out of gas in the past month.

Maybe they just can’t afford it.

The Mariners? Bailing water, with a 35-37 record made more egregious by the high hopes everyone with a connection to the team had when the season opened nearly three months ago.

The Sounders? Barely holding their head above the waves for the past few weeks or so, culminating in a boringly tepid performance against LAFC Wednesday night.

The Storm? Once the WNBA’s model franchise, Seattle’s new look is as stiff and incomplete as Derek Zoolander’s Blue Steel.

At least the Seahawks aren’t playing. If they were struggling too, 2023 might go down as the worst dive since Luis Suarez last took the pitch.

That’s OK, though. In a state as diverse and large as ours, there is always something somewhere we can embrace and take comfort from. Maybe it’s tonight’s NBA draft.

No, the Sonics aren’t back. But for the third consecutive year a Gonzaga player should hear his name called. Julian Strawther is holding that banner by himself, however, after the Zags have seen multiple players drafted in each of the past two years.

The way 2023 has been going around here, though, maybe his name won’t be called. Such an upset might fit.

No worries though. The draft is on TV (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. start). So, you won’t have to drive anywhere to watch it.

• Hoopfest is just a couple of days away. And, like everything, it seems to be emerging from its pandemic pause. More teams are signed up this year than last, which was the first year back from the COVID-19-induced purgatory.

A sort-of kickoff event was held Wednesday night at Riverfront Park, with the second Hooptown Hall of Fame class inducted.

Spokane has produced more than its quota of great basketball players and teams over the years, with a handful of those folks making up this year’s class.

Briann January, Fred Crowell, Stacey Clinesmith, Shann Ferch, and the 1996 Whitworth Pirate team that finished second in the NAIA tournament.

Maybe not national names in the same way, say, John Stockton (an inductee in the first class) is, but if you know Spokane basketball, you know who they are. And know them well.

Take Crowell, who founded and ran NBC camps in the area for decades. Many kids who learned the game in these parts made their way to an NBC camp at some point. The camps’ contribution to Hooptown may not have been loud or flashy. It was just important. Solid instruction. Fun.

Which sort of defines basketball in Spokane. It isn’t loud or flashy. Important, sure. Solid, you bet. And fun.

Now save your pennies so you can drive into downtown this weekend and be part of the city’s core basketball event.


WSU: Just when you thought it was safe to read the sports pages again without transfer portal news, spring sports finish and bring a new set of names. Elijah Hainline, the Mead High graduate who had a breakout season for the baseball team, is set to break away from Pullman, having put his name in the portal. Colton Clark has more, as the Cougars have to deal with a coaching change that may cause many others to examine their options. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Larry Stone’s look at the importance of the next media deal ran in the S-R this morning. … So did Jon Wilner’s look at tonight’s NBA draft. … Oregon has put together the main elements of its nonconference basketball schedule. … Colorado’s women will open their season against the defending champs. … All four Arizona and Arizona State schools will participate in Jerry Colangelo’s Hall of Fame Series games. … In football, USC has to get past Utah to win the conference in its last season. … Oregon State’s starting shortstop has entered the portal.

Gonzaga: Theo Lawson has his take on tonight’s draft and how the Zags have fared with it over the recent years. The answer? As well as anyone not named Duke or Kentucky. … Strawther’s prospects are covered by his hometown newspaper. … What about Malachi Smith? Does he have a shot? … The women will play Arizona in Phoenix as part of Colangelo’s Hall of Fame Series games. … Elsewhere in the WCC, there is some speculation Golden State is looking at selecting a Bay Area college product.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Montana State is ready for its upcoming the conference basketball schedule.

Indians: Spokane ended its long losing streak, with an odd two-run home run producing a 6-5 walk-off win over Tri-City. Dave Nichols was at Avista and has this story.

Hoopfest: We linked above Justin Reed’s story on last night’s Hooptown Hall of Fame inductions. We do it again here. … The basketball history in this town runs deeper than the Spokane River.

Mariners: Maybe it’s time to close the book on 2023. Another season of hope, and another season of a star’s prime, wasted. Nothing the M’s have done recently screams they will turn a lackluster season into something special. Certainly not last night’s 4-2 loss in New York. … J.P. Crawford is just hoping not to go on the injured list. … It will be hard for Julio Rodriguez to make the All-Star team, which would just be sad.

Sounders: A goal in the first minute for LAFC. Then, nothing. Seattle lost and the mid-season floundering continues.

Storm: Seattle may have found its point guard. On a roadtrip to Europe.


• At least gas prices are still lower than they were last year at this time. And, around here, aren’t as bad as other parts of the state. Problem is, many times what we want to do, sports-wise, happens on the other side of the state. Including watching the M’s, the Storm or the Sounders. Until later …