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

‘I feel this is a national award’: Hooptown Hall of Fame enshrines newest members in buildup to annual basketball event

By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

Sitting at Conley’s in Spokane Valley, Larry Wendel had tears slipping out of the corner of both eyes as he accepted his official letter that recognized him as a 2024 Hooptown Hall of Fame inductee.

On Wednesday, on the Hooptown USA courts just south of the Podium, Wendel was gifted his plaque that cemented him as one of the foundational pieces of basketball in Spokane.

“I’m not much of a talker, but I can blow a mean whistle,” Wendel said as he stood in front of the audience.

Wendel, alongside Hal McGlathery and Danny Beard in a booth at Conley’s, realized that the induction was the biggest achievement of his life, and would supersede any other award that might come his way in the future.

“It’s very rewarding, very rewarding,” he said. “I feel this is a national award, bigger than the WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association) Hall of Fame in my opinion.”

Wendel has a WIAA service award, and he was inducted into the Spokane Basketball Officials Hall of Fame in 2019.

Hoopfest has a handful of players who have played in every Hoopfest since 1990, but only one has had a whistle in his hand every summer, officiating the rough and tumble basketball.

Overall, Wendel has 49 years of refereeing, spanning 5,000 games of high school college, recreation leagues and Hoopfest.

He was the only college referee to sign up from day one to volunteer, so he became the highest-ranking official in Hoopfest, thanks to his friend McGlathery, who was the marshal for the elite division.

“He said, ‘You have one place to go, and that is center court because you are the only one with collegiate experience,’” Wendel said.

Before his speech, Wendel thought that it may have been the first time he was on a basketball court and not one person booed him.

He thanked his family first, all three generations of it in attendance before thanking his two friends who took him to breakfast as well as the Hoopfest organization for all that it has done over the last 35 years.

Wendel was elected alongside other Spokane basketball greats Adam Morrison, Terry Kelly, Tammy Tibbles and Linda Sheridan.

Morrison, a Gonzaga icon, was the final speaker of the evening, which he said made him even more nervous to speak than he already was.

“Thanks for having me do the cleanup, it’s not like doing the radio, I can’t see anybody, I just watch the players,” he said.

Morrison’s high school coach, Glenn Williams, introduced the former Mead Panthers star by celebrating his fiery and motivational passion.

“I was privileged and grateful to be close up and have a close view of a basketball prodigy,” Williams said. “Adam had a mind-boggling consistency of effortless scoring. It was amazing.”

Morrison becomes the second individual men’s Gonzaga player to be inducted after John Stockton in 2022.

Gonzaga women’s player Stacy Clinesmith was inducted last year.

The 1999 Gonzaga men’s team was inducted in 2022.

Kelly, a former Gonzaga Prep and Washington State player, was introduced by Mark and Tim Rypien.

“Not only is he a national treasure to Spokane, he’s a good dude,” Mark Rypien said. “Very blessed to know Terry over the years.”

At Prep, Kelly averaged 26 points a game in the 1976 season, tops in the state. He played under George Raveling at WSU and captained the team to the NCAA Tournament in 1980, the first Cougar team to make it in 39 years.

“Honestly, you cannot duplicate Hoopfest anywhere in the country,” Kelly said. “Having Hooptown and having a Hall of Fame, to recognize people that have had played a role in this reputation that we’re developing here in this area, was another great idea. That’s what it takes. It takes visionaries.”

Kelly mentioned Rick Betts and Jerry Schmidt, the founders of Hoopfest, as those visionaries.

As for his recognition? He is just hoping some of the people in attendance on Wednesday remember his playing days.

“For a moment in time, in 1980, we did what Gonzaga has done for the last 25 years,” Kelly said. “But it’d been (almost) 40 years since WSU had been in a tournament.

Tibbles was the previous all-time scoring leader for the Zags between 1988 and 2010 – until Courtney Vandersloot broke it.

She also held the Washington State high school scoring record at one time as well.

“My story is about so much more than a girl and a love of the game.”

She spent 24 years as a Spokane firefighter, becoming one of the first females to join the squad.

The former Creston basketball star offered up her services to any team needing a player for this upcoming Hoopfest weekend.

“If anyone wants an almost 60-year-old player, I’m pretty sure I could still drain the 3s.”

Sheridan, one of the more successful coaches in Washington State high school history, went 820-214 between basketball and volleyball, a winning percentage of .793 over 24 years.

She won seven state titles and 17 Greater Spokane League championships.

Her legacy has been felt even after her death in 2013 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

Every coach in the GSL knows her name and hundreds of athletes through Spokane had the chance to be coached by her.