“They might as well call this Basketball City, USA.”
Actually, we prefer Hooptown USA. Even in 2014, Sports Illustrated recognized that basketball has seeped into the very fabric of Spokane’s culture and holds the power to galvanize the community unlike any other singular element.
Basketball has been part of Spokane’s DNA since 1990, the year Rick Betts and Jerry Schmidt teamed up to chase an ambitious vision for their city and unintentionally created the world’s largest 3-on-3 street basketball tournament, Spokane Hoopfest. Then there’s John Stockton, the original Hooptown Hero, who is responsible for putting Gonzaga, and therefore Spokane, on the national basketball map. Soon after John was Matt Santangelo who led the team to the Elite Eight in 1999, Sweet 16 in 2000 and is now the Executive Director of Spokane Hoopfest.
The passion for basketball doesn’t end there.
At this point, it’s no secret that Gonzaga has become one of the best college basketball programs in the country. Gonzaga women are also NCAA regulars; and teams from Eastern Washington University and Washington State University have made their presence known as well. Coaches and players from Spokane make an impact on the game from Portland to Portugal to Peru.
The 2021 postseason is no different.
Four of the NCAA Division I teams in Eastern Washington – ahem, Hooptown – have made it to the big dance this year, setting a league record. Gonzaga’s men’s team is the #1 overall seed and the center of lots of hype, looking to advance their perfect season. Gonzaga’s women are a powerhouse #5 seed ready to make a run down in Austin, Texas. EWU’s men’s team is joining Gonzaga in Indianapolis, Ind., as a #14 seed hoping for a Cinderella moment of their own. Rounding out the Hooptown March Madness lineup is the #9 seeded WSU’s women’s team.
And if that seems like a lot of syllables, feel free to just say, “the teams from Hooptown USA.”
Between Hoopfest, college hoops, and all the basketball in between, the thump of a basketball against asphalt or hardwood has become the rhythm of Hooptown. From the cul-de-sac champions to the NBA Hall-of-Famers, the love for basketball has a wide reach here. It’s thrilling to see Hooptown’s passion for basketball play out in such a big way on the national stage. Our fingers are crossed, and hopes are high for all our teams in Indianapolis and Austin.
So, while the college basketball world might be full of madness in March, we in Hooptown like to think of it as magic. The kind of magic that not only creates nationally competitive athletes and teams, but the kind of magic that connects communities and inspires the next generation of stars.
That’s the magic of hoops. That’s the magic of Hooptown USA.
Image by Dan Beltran
Written by Maggie Claire