Rick Sloan used to have a line-in-the-sand stance when it came to any of his Central Valley boys basketball players participating in Hoopfest.
The gist of it was he didn’t want them playing in the annual 3-on-3 tournament.
Then he discovered some players were still playing but signing up under aliases.
Sloan isn’t as hard core as he used to be. But if he had his druthers none of his players would be involved at Hoopfest this weekend.
“I highly discourage them. That’s the wording I use,” Sloan said.
And he’s less enthused about his players participating coming off a team camp at Gonzaga University. Which is the case this year.
“I hate to see a fatigue injury after camp,” Sloan said. “But I figure it’s a family decision. Hoopfest is interwoven in families so I’m not sure it’s my business. I can’t go so far as to say now. You’re fighting an uphill battle if you say no they can’t do it.”
Sloan’s senior-to-be point guard, returning starter Adam Chamberlain, understands his coach’s concerns. He returned to help his team, Brick Squaddd, defend its championship in the Elite High School boys division.
“I just like to come out here and have fun playing with guys that I normally don’t get to play with,” Chamberlain said.
The elite division plays on a prepared court that’s pieced together on top of the street. So the chances for serious injury are lessened.
One of Chamberlain’s teammates, senior-to-be Stu Stiles of Mt. Spokane, isn’t concerned about getting hurt.
“This isn’t too bad with this court,” Stiles said. “And you’ve got two refs – they’re (Greater Spokane League) refs – so it’s not real scrappy.”
Sloan isn’t alone in his apprehension, though. Spokane Stars director Ron Adams has a strict policy – especially since the bulk of his teams’ summer play occurs in July, immediately following Hoopfest.
“None of our kids ever play,” Adams said. “It’s an event and it has nothing to do with basketball. It’s mugball where you call your own fouls on cement or asphalt.”
Adams was surprised when he learned shortly after an interview for this story that four of his players were registered according to Hoopfest’s website. He planned to talk with those players.
“Anybody who has any chance of playing in college and you’re a junior or sophomore, you’re out of your mind to play in Hoopfest,” Adams said. “Think of all the injuries that could happen – ACLs, concussions, broken ankles. If it was in the middle of June or in August I’d say go for it.”
Lewis and Clark girls basketball coach Jim Redmon has no problem if his players play.
“I’ve always allowed them to play,” Redmon said. “The reason I like it is it makes a player mentally tough. I’ve played in it. We preach to the girls to be in control in difficult situations so I think it presents good life lessons.”
One year, Redmon made the mistake of taking his team to a tournament the same weekend as Hoopfest. It’s the last time he did so.
“The girls wanted to find a tree and lynch me,” Redmon laughed. “They were so mad at me. They act like it’s a holiday.”
Redmon understands the concerns fellow coaches have with Hoopfest. Count Coeur d’Alene girls coach Dale Poffenroth at the head of that line.
“I don’t deny them the opportunity but I discourage it. It’s not safe,” Poffenroth said.
Three years ago one of his players suffered an ACL injury at Hoopfest.
“They’re playing on a crowned surface and it’s a hard top,” Poffenroth said. “This weekend they’ll be playing in severe heat. I don’t think there’s too many coaches around who want their kids to do it.”
Gonzaga Prep boys coach Matty McIntyre has no problem with his players participating.
“It’d be a little draconian if I participated and told my players not to do it,” McIntyre said. “I leave it up to them.”
McIntyre’s streak of Hoopfest appearances ended this weekend at 22.
McIntyre, whose 6-foot-and-under men’s team won three straight championships, was practicing with his buddies three weeks ago in a cul-de-sac when he severely sprained an ankle. When it appeared a teammate couldn’t make it McIntyre was willing to play. But he reluctantly decided not to when the teammate decided to come back at the last minute.