S-R Showcase: Ron Adams, pioneer of Spokane girls basketball, named all-star game in memory of best friend
March 14, 2023 Updated Fri., March 17, 2023 at 2:13 p.m.
Brittany Kennedy (cq) from Lewis and Clark playing for the Metro All Stars finishes a fast break for a basket Wednesday June 7, 2006 in the Jack Blair Memorial Girls AAU All AStar Basketball Classic at University High School. CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON The Spokesman-Review (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON)
It takes a lot of work to host a high school all-star basketball game. But the work is worth the rewards.
Ron Adams knows all about it.
Adams, the co-founder of the successful Spokane Stars girls basketball program, created the region’s girls high school basketball all-star game out of a love of the game – and he renamed it in memory of his best friend.
Adams co-founded the Stars AAU program in 1982 with Jack Blair, the longtime coach and administrator in the Greater Spokane League. The pair coached the team together for the next seven years and finished second in the nation in 1987, the highest final ranking of any West Coast AAU girls team.
The duo organized the first girls all-star game, with a Washington vs. Idaho format, in 1994 to highlight the region’s best players.
But Blair, who was 52 at the time, passed away in December 1994 due to complications of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Adams wanted to find a way to honor his friend’s memory. That’s when he renamed the game as the “Jack Blair Memorial” all-star game.
“We kinda needed something for the girls,” Adams said. “Having an all-star game for them – there are so many around the state for the boys. When we started out there was really nothing for the girls. What a beautiful way to show their talent from year to year and how the game advanced each year and the talent just got better and better and better.”
The first seven games were in the Washington against Idaho format – all won by Washington. Adams decided to mix things up a bit.
He adopted the “Metro” vs. “Region” format, pitting the GSL all-stars against North Idaho and the best from smaller schools in the region.
Everyone wanted to participate.
“We’ve done this for 25 years and never did one (local) player turn down the invite,” Adams said. “Even if they were injured, they still came and received their award and sat on the bench with the others.”
Over the next 18 years, the competition got better, but the Metro team still had the better of it, winning 14 of the contests.
Through the years, the game has showcased the best girls players the area had to offer, including players to go on to Division I programs such as Stacy Clinesmith, Alli Nieman, Heather Bowman, Jazmine Redmon, Laura Stockton, Otiana Gildon, and Lexie and Lacie Hull among many others.
“Nobody ever complained about the rosters because we always had all of the top kids,” Adams said.
“There was so much support,” Adams said. “Everything was positive. The players were excited, the parents were supportive. The coaches always did a fantastic job. The officiating was fantastic. We had mostly sellout crowds. It was always a great time.”
In 2018 the Metro team, led by former Lewis and Clark and current Eastern Washington star Jacinta Buckley’s 17 points, beat a Region team paced by former Post Falls and Gonzaga standout Melody Kempton, who had 16.
Then-sophomore Jayda Noble, who was with Medical Lake before transferring to Mt. Spokane, was named Most Inspirational, returning from a serious injury to provide spark to the Region team. Noble now plays for the University of Washington.
The time and effort over 25 years to run the all-star game, on top of managing the Stars program, eventually took its toll on Adams.
When he first told folks that he was thinking about retiring the game, many didn’t believe him.
“I didn’t believe myself either,” he said. “But 25 years was good enough for me.”
After the 2018 game, Adams streamlined some of his responsibilities and, after unsuccessfully finding a replacement, retired from the game. He reached out to the paper to see if anyone could help.
“With things like our Northwest Passages community events series, or our annual Women of the Year, Difference Makers and Black Voices events, it didn’t seem like too much of a stretch to try to host an all-star game that actually represents something more than just an all-star game,” said Rob Curley, The Spokesman-Review’s executive editor.
There had never been a boys all-star game on this side of the state, but when the paper decided to take on the girls game, it seemed like a logical thing to add the second game.
Once the paper was on board, the entire basketball community rallied around the idea.
And everything was set for the series to debut – three years ago – until the start of the COVID pandemic.
With things finally “back to normal,” organizers decided the time was right to bring the games back, hopefully to start a new yearly tradition in the Spokane basketball calendar.
The boys game is dedicated to Denny Humphrey, the longtime Cheney, Lacrosse, Chewelah and Ritzville coach who retired in 2002 with the fourth-most career wins in the state, and who passed away in October 2019 at the age of 79.
Humphrey’s son, Jay, announced his retirement during the season and coached his last game at the State 2A tournament two weeks ago. He said the family was honored when approached about naming the boys game after his dad.
“It’s great, because he deserves it,” Humphrey said. “He was so unassuming, this would be something he’d never ask for or think that would be given to him. He just did his job and did it very well, but didn’t want or need any accolades. I think it’s really cool and that he would be very honored by it.”
Humphrey added that the area was long overdue for a boys all-star game.
“I’m very thankful (the paper) is doing that. It’s obviously great for our family but it’s great for the kids to get the recognition.”
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