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Takin' It to the Streets 

by THE INLANDER STAFF & r & & r & HOW TEAM INLANDER PLANS TO DOMINATE THE MEDIA BRACKET THIS YEAR & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & e're talking to you, KREM. You too, KHQ. The Spokesman-Review? We're going to beat you so bad you bleed ink. And if the rest of you journalists, celebreporters, editors and marketers in the Hoopfest media division think you're getting off easy, you're mistaken. We've been out of the bracket for three years and we're thirsty for blood.

The Inlander has a long and storied history in the media division, which pits rival media outlets against each other on the court at Main Avenue and Howard. With the exception that teams are allowed five players instead of four (although only four can play in any one particular game), the rules are no different than in regular play. But the rivalries are more bitter and the competition can be fiercer than in the open division.

Consider, for example, Team Inlander's first entry in 1995, when we squared off against brothers Ralph and Jess Walter, along with the rest of the Spokesman-Review's team. In the final game of the bracket, our editor and publisher, Ted S. McGregor, Jr., twisted his ankle so badly that it immediately swelled to the size of a grapefruit. (He was likely pushed by one of the Walter boys, though memory is hazy.) Did Ted let his injury get him down? Hell, no. He laced his massive ankle back up and re-entered what had become a war of attrition (and ugly, bank-shot two-pointers) under a blazing sun, and The Inlander, in its first try, won the Hoopfest title.

A few years later, our then-business manager Joe Mueller got his head smashed into the metal stanchion. The court ran red with Inlander blood, and it would not go unavenged. Mueller found a doctor, had his noggin wrapped in a turban-like bandage and fought on, winning the paper its second title.

For the last three years, The Inlander has declined to field a Hoopfest team. An outside observer might speculate that that's because we're afraid (not true), or because we've lost key players (slightly true), or because several core members of our team (guys like Arts Editor Michael Bowen and the McGregor brothers -- the paper's founders) are getting a little past their Hoopfest prime and should probably just be put down (jeez -- how dare you even suggest that!).

But our absence has been a strategic one. We've taken the time to become stronger, faster, smarter. We've participated in carefully choreographed training montage sequences and begun working with a highly regarded Spanish doctor whose reputation for shepherding athletes through drug tests is unimpeachable. We've videotaped competitors' practices. We have Tonya Harding on speed dial.

We're bringing the heat this year, with a refreshed roster and a new strategy. We're not pretty and don't want to be: We're newspaper men. We don't mind blood or bruises. We're willing to get our heads in defenders' armpits if that's what it takes. And we're not above fouling the hell out of their boys when we realize they can't sink free throws.

Stand aside, wannabes and pretenders. It's a new era for Team Inlander. We will not be denied. (Unless you're tall or fast, in which case we're totally screwed.)

-- JOEL SMITH

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TEAM INLANDER -- Michael "The Cannibal" Bowen

Arts & amp; Culture Editor

6-foot-1, 190 lbs.

Motto "Beat 'em, bust 'em, that's our custom."

Strengths Bowen is probably the best shooter on the team, with a nice crossover-to-jumper move that's hard to defend. He's also the oldest member of the team, and one of the only guys who has played basketball in any kind of legitimate, organized way. That makes him a know-it-all, yes, but that's not a liability given teammates who know very little.

Weaknesses Though his official team nickname is "The Cannibal," it might as well be "China Doll." An accomplished athlete in the water and on a bike, he's extremely brittle on the court. Laser-accurate 15-foot jump shots routinely result in a pulled groin, calf or hamstring.

Signature Moves A reverse spin that is notorious for spinning completely out of control (usually resulting in injury). Also, an off-ball reverse reach-around that defenders find discomforting.

Trivia At Southern California's Mission Viejo High School, way back in 1973, Bowen set a free throw accuracy record in the Crestview League, shooting 90 percent from the line for an entire season -- a record that still stands, mostly because the league disbanded the following year.

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Aaaaaaairball! -- Training Diary by Joel Smith

APRIL 19 (Day 1)

Dear Diary,

Today was the first time I've been on a basketball court in something like nine months. And it shows. I can barely get the ball to the backboard, let alone in the hoop. Last year I'd actually gotten in fairly good basketball shape, playing regularly with several bandmates. But just shooting around on the playground at Roosevelt Elementary with music editor and power forward Luke Baumgarten today, I felt like I was playing the game for the first time. Between-the-legs crossovers were flying into the adjacent field. Simple bounce passes to Luke landed at his feet. My knees weren't springy, my arms were weak, my hands were floppy. And those parts have to all be connected into one well-oiled mechanism if I have any chance against the marauding reporters, marketers and TV personalities in the media division. As of now, the cables are busted and the bearings are shot. What an embarrassment.

We only ended up playing a couple games of H-O-R-S-E. Luke nearly pulled his groin in the middle of a baby hook. Great...

MAY 4 (Day 16)

I missed Bloomsday today. First time in the four years I've lived here. I'm sick over it. But I didn't want a repeat of last year, when a lack of training left me with a banged-up knee by race end. I scored my best time to-date that day, but the knee thing also took me off my bike for a whole month and screwed up my whole cycling season. So, I didn't run Bloomsday this year for fear of hurting my knee. Then I went and played basketball this fine Sunday afternoon.

And hurt my knee.

Luke and I went to Roosevelt again, this time with News Editor Jacob "The Escalator" Fries. I'd forgotten that Roosevelt's court is still littered with fine gravel, no doubt the leavings of this record winter. It makes your footing on a jump shot a little unstable. It makes juking -- the bread and butter of basketball movement -- impossible. I juked during a raucous game of Bump and came down on my left knee, digging a nice little pit right over the kneecap and trickling blood down my shin.

Damn.

I played a few more games of Bump, then sat out while Jacob sated his lust for pushing Luke around in a couple of hard-fought games of 21 (one of which may or may not have included a brief bout of Greco-Roman wrestling).

MAY 28 (Day 40)

With our first team practice around the corner, the trash talk has begun. Circulating e-mails intended simply to schedule practice have begun taking on the tone of a yo-mama throwdown. "Bowen, bring bags of ice for your old bones," wrote Jacob. "My biggest issue is [Hoopfest's] anti-hanging-on-the-rims policy," Jer boasted. "I may have to dial my game down." Jeez. Perhaps they forget that we're actually on the same team. A house divided against itself can not slam.

MAY 30 (Day 42)

Our first team practice. To get an honest three-on-three game going, we roped Trevor Rendall, our circulation guy, into joining us at the courts at St. Al's. This, after a company barbecue lunch on the front steps of the office, at which several Hoopfest team members were observed scarfing multiple meat products. We shot for teams. I looked around the court and noticed every other guy has at least three inches and probably 30 pounds on me. This is not a sport for skinny guys of average height -- especially skinny guys of average height who aren't any good at basketball.

True, I'm a decent shooter, normally. But I'm pretty much useless in every other capacity on the court. On offense, I'm clumsy when I have the ball and clueless when I don't. Jer, the newspaper's general manager, had to remind me several times what side I was on. "Offense, Joel. Offense." On defense, I just got burned and pushed around. Jer put an elbow in my ear. I couldn't get around Jacob's ass.

At some point, Jer and Trevor got wise and started formulating strategy. We played zone defense on them, and it worked. Suddenly they were having a hard time getting to the hoop, and their play was getting even sloppier than usual. We came back to win it.

We played one more game like this, to 10 points. It wasn't pretty. I missed every open shot I took. There were no slick passes -- there wasn't room for it between all those big, hairy legs. Several picks were set, but the rolls were nowhere to be found. We did establish a degree of communication, though, in the form of our boss telling us what to do.

At the end of Game Two, Arts & amp; Culture Editor Michael Bowen said he had a triathlon in two days and he didn't want to hurt himself playing some sloppy street ball, so why don't we call it quits for today? He was thoroughly razzed and coerced into Game Three. Then, eight points into Game Three, he pulled up lame and we all felt bad. Game Over.

JUNE 2 (Day 45)

Luke and I went and shot around at Roosevelt again tonight, and I finally feel like my shot is starting to come back. The knees are bending the right away, and the energy is transferring pretty smoothly from my toes, through my mid-section, up my arms and out my fingers. Which is not to say that there weren't some truly embarrassing whiffs, but my shot finally feels like one fluid motion, not a sequence of localized misfires. Might want to schedule a trip to the chiropractor after the game, Team KREM. You're gonna get cricks in your necks watching the ball soar over your heads all weekend.

JUNE 4 (Day 47)

Jacob and I went and shot around in Peaceful Valley at lunch today, then ditched work a little early to invest in our basketball futures by buying $9 basketball shoes from Steve and Barry's. Awesome. We're pretty sure this is going to revolutionize our games (if the shoes even hold up until Hoopfest). At a second practice after work, I felt like my leap increased by about three feet, and suddenly I had a fade-away jumper. Incredible. Oh Saint Marbury, we give thee thanks.

JUNE 8 (Day 51)

Played some one-on-one with Jake today. It's easy enough. If he drove to the lane every time, his grizzly bear frame would absolutely maul me. But he's so fond of his three-point shot that he takes every possible opportunity to showcase it. And when he bricks (about three-quarters of the time), he's nowhere close to the rebound. Money in the bank. Unfortunately, he got even by dropping an elbow in the middle of my thigh on a fast break, delivering a charley horse the likes of which I haven't felt since sharing the back seat with my brother on family car trips. I'm gonna feel this one for days.

JUNE 11 (Day 54)

Our second team practice found us in much finer form. More shots drop. More rebounds are corralled. We've even begun work on a package of top-secret offensive plays -- maneuvers so cunningly genius and intricate that even we don't understand them. One, called "The Whirling Dervish," involves two screens, a triple Lutz and The Escalator hitting a two-point shot from the next court.

Another ("The Warbling Dove") calls for the right post to put a screen on the ref, allowing the middle guy to perform any number of offensive fouls against his defender and freeing the third guy up to inject performance-enhancing drugs.

We're also preparing for what we'll call "Code Grey" -- an emergency situation in which the high-scoring old guys on the team pull various muscles and tendons, leaving us young Turks to fend for ourselves. Of course, one of our geriatrics is an actor and theater critic, and the other is a notorious bluffer. So we could be totally messing with you!

JUNE 20 (Day 65)

Code Grey! Code Grey! In what may be our last practice before the big tournament, both of our old-timers bowed out -- Bo with various ailments, Jer with baby-sitting duty. The reality of our situation -- that Team Inlander will likely constitute three young but relatively talent-less, relatively unpracticed upstarts -- came home to roost.

We also faced a second, even more painful reality, practicing for the first time in stifling, Hoopfest-like heat. Any confidence we had accrued over the last few practices melted away as we slumped over on the court after our first game to 10 points. I'd always shrugged off stories about the difficulty of playing in such conditions, but they were truer than I knew.

The forecast calls for sun and 90 degrees this weekend. Can Team Inlander take the heat?

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TEAM INLANDER -- Jacob "The Escalator" Fries

News Editor

6-foot-1, 220 lbs.

Motto "It's not basketball without a little violence."

Strengths Because of his size, body hair and aggressiveness, you might think that Fries' only game is blocking shots, pulling down rebounds and throwing opponents to the ground. But that assumption would be wrong. While he loves nothing more than throwing a well-placed elbow, "The Escalator" also has a startling outside game. When he's not folding you like an origami crane beneath the hoop, he's raining down twos from the next court. Keep an eye on him.

Weaknesses Because of his size, body hair and aggressiveness, Fries tires easily. Run him around enough and he'll retire to the two-point line, where he'll lob increasingly ugly shots until the whistle blows.

Signature Move Kidney punch

Trivia Fries was named the Most Valuable Defensive Player on his ninth-grade Greenacres football team, if that tells you anything about his hoops style.

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MEDIA DIVISION SCOUTING REPORTS

by Michael Bowen, Joel Smith and Jacob H. Fries

KHQ-TV "SIX APPEAL"

WHO'S WHO Six Appeal consists of KHQ's sports director John Fritz, sports anchor/reporter Derek Deis, photographer Josh Godfrey and promotions guy Jordan Caskey. (Caskey's officially listed at 6-foot-9, but is more like 6-foot-1. "It's fun. Every year we say, 'How tall do you want to be this time?'" Deis says.) It's the team's fourth Hoopfest together and two years ago they took home the division trophy (fittingly, a brick painted gold).

THREATS Anchoring the team, Fritz is about 6-foot-5 and wide around the middle (as a younger man, he apparently made all-state in Alaska). "He is a large individual and takes up a lot of room inside," Deis says. "He's a big dude." On the perimeter, Deis and Caskey like to chuck the long ball.

TRASH TALK Deis predicts Six Appeal will run away with the title, "no questions asked," despite the fact they haven't practiced and don't plan to. His assessment of Team Inlander: "The Inlander team, I would say, is a little funkier in their play ... probably coming at ya from a little different angle."

HOW WE'LL DOMINATE Sharp elbows, Bill Laimbeer-style. These TV divas are too pretty to ball. "We don't like to take elbows to the face, that's for sure," Deis says. (JF)

SEATTLE P-I "JUMPHEADS"

WHO'S WHO No janitors, platemakers or classified reps here: The P-I's team is all editorial, including assigning editor Bill Miller (former Spokesman-Review guy), A & amp;E assistant Manny Lewis, night sports editor Gerry Spratt and award-winning reporter Adam Lynn (another former Spokesman guy).

THREATS Word on the street is that Gerry Spratt is the guy to watch, as he's 6-foot-6 and plays a very physical game. As one of the sports guys for the Seattle paper, he's also not going to want to do badly at a basketball tournament in Spokane, so he'll be playing tough. At 6 feet and age 25, Manny Lewis also scares us.

HOW WE'LL DOMINATE The P-I boys will likely be tired from their trip over from Seattle -- especially if they stop for a bender in Ritzville -- so look for us to try to wear them out. Also, we're going to have to wrap Spratt up, mentally (get inside his head, make him worry about his reputation among the sports guys back at the newsroom) and, if necessary, physically (duct tape, nylon rope, whatever it takes). (JS)

KREM ONE

WHO'S WHO "KREM has two teams, and we're kind of the leftovers," says Sten Walstrom, co-anchor of the CBS affiliate's morning news show. "We haven't had any practices. Two of my teammates, I haven't even seen them play. We have zero shooters on this team." At 6-foot-2, Walstrom and Steve Murphy are KREM One's inside players. Asked to evaluate Murphy's play, Walstrom says, "I have no idea. I know he likes basketball. I've seen him shoot three times."

THREATS Tom Hudson played tennis at a Division I school and Othello Richards was a sprinter on the BYU track team, so they've got skills. Walstrom describes his own style of play as "wishing that I were better. I try to make up with intensity what I lack in skill -- playing defense, crashing the boards, just running around aimlessly."

TRASH TALK The team is keeping its expectations low. "Our goal? Our goal is to ... what is our goal? I don't think we have a goal," says Walstrom. "We just want to make it to Sunday ... If we played KREM Two, we'd just get carted away. That's it! Our goal is not to get injured."

HOW WE'LL DOMINATE By distracting them. We'll set up a courtside JumboTron and replay KREM Sports bloopers endlessly. We'll hold them scoreless. Yeah, that's the plan. (MB)

KREM TWO

WHO'S WHO Kevin Blocker, digital media manager; Noah Cooper, executive news director; Chris Danielle, assistant news director; Daniel Glazier of the production department; Paul Koehnke, photojournalist -- that could be KREM's division-winning lineup.

THREATS But KREM's varsity team is led by Cooper (age 38, 5-foot-8) and Blocker (age 40, 5-foot-10). These are old, short guys! You just keep thinking that as they dribble around you, shoot over you, and send your shot into the next court. Blocker, who for years played for the Paperboys (and broke Team Inlander's heart many a year) and against Cooper's KREM teams, now is teamed up with him: bad news for Media teams. As Cooper says, "Kevin is one of those guys who would light me up for 16 or 18 points -- and next thing you know, we're in the losers' bracket."

TRASH TALK Cooper doesn't talk trash -- he trashes you. Prompted to reveal his team's strengths, he'll only mutter something about "showing up on time." As for losing a step at age 38, he laughs and says, "I've lost about 20." Which is about how many points Media teams may lose by when they take on the Blocker-Cooper KREM juggernaut.

HOW WE'LL DOMINATE We won't. Blocker and Cooper are two of the best players in the history of the Media Division. We have no hope against them. In fact, we'd like to forfeit right now. (MB)

THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW "PAPERBOYS"

WHO'S WHO After cutbacks in the newsroom, the team's left with designer/copy editor David Oriard (a teammate of John Stockton's way back at G-Prep)and a group of part-timers -- Mike Boyle, who contributes to the paper's Voices section; Grant Yakasaki, who answers phones in sports; and Mike Johnston, a part-time copy editor, says Oriard.

THREATS Oriard, at 6-foot-5, is still a force, and Yakasaki is said to be good down low (although Oriard's never seen him play). "We're going to be tough inside, that's for sure," Oriard says. "Me and Boyle will try to bang around."

TRASH TALK Oriard isn't much for talking smack. "We're probably going to be the tallest and slowest out there," he says. But don't let his easy-going attitude fool you: His eyes are on the prize. "We want our trophy back!" he says.

HOW WE'LL DOMINATE They haven't played together as a unit yet, so it's safe to assume they're not familiar with each other's strengths/weaknesses and will suffer from poor communication. Expect to see lots of zig-zagging to confuse their defensive assignments. (JF)

WIRED 96.9

WHO'S WHO Ball handler Doug Toland says, "I just threw this team together at the last minute." NinetySix Nine hasn't practiced yet either: "We just slapped up a basket outside our offices here at KXLY," Toland says. Anchorman Dave Erickson will have just six days' recovery after completing the CdA Ironman.

THREATS Wired's sole woman is Jacqulynn Stewart, a D.J. who's 5-foot-11 and who, while in college, played better basketball than any of us. Toland calls her "our inside threat." Another radio jock, Demetrius Phillips, is "very athletic and a good inside player." (At 6-foot-1, he's the team's tallest player.) Erickson apparently scores fairly high on measures of endurance. And Toland knows "the secret to Hoopfest: rebounding. Nobody ever rebounds."

TRASH TALK "I just wanted to get a team in," says Toland, and clearly he's a master of the pre-Hoopfest pep talk: "I told them, whatever happens, happens. There's no pride on the line here. But in past years, when some of the radio stations play, it can definitely get ugly."

HOW WE'LL DOMINATE Like hitting buttons on a remote control, we will mute KXLY and then shut them off entirely. (MB)

COMCAST "SLOWSKIES"

WHO'S WHO The four Slowskies, most of whom attended local high schools, are all Comcast technicians. (The team name derives from the turtle family in Comcast's classic commercials about slow-speed and high-speed Internet connections.) No practices yet, reports Chad Adamson, but "we just kind of get together every Wednesday after work." They've never played as a team before.

THREATS Daymion Hills is the ball handler and penetrator. Pete Hill is a spot-up shooter: "If Daymion goes to the basket and the defense collapses on him, he'll dish it out to me," Hill says. Adamson and Seth Watkins, both 28 and both 6 feet tall, are the team's inside players.

TRASH TALK Three of the four Slowskies have played together on full-court, 5-on-5 teams that have made the playoffs and even won titles in the Spokane's men's league. On the other hand, when asked how the Slowskies will dominate the Media Division, Adamson pauses a long time before answering. "Umm, you know, it's probably only if we get lucky," he says.

HOW WE'LL DOMINATE They're self-identified recreation-level ballers and none of them stands over 6 feet, so the Slowskies aren't likely to become the Fastskies when they confront the awesomely shocking shock-and-awe tactics of Team Inlander. (It's shocking how awesome we are. Plus, three of us have really big butts.) (MB)

EASTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY MEDIA

WHO'S WHO Dave Sonntag and Ryan Gaard put out Eastern's alumni magazine, their internal newsletter, etc. Newsletters... Please. They're way out of their league in a division full of hardened journalists. Of course, they're also last year's media division champions. We expect Special Assistant to the President David Rey to make a lot of special assists to Vice President Mike Westfall, the team's newcomer.

THREATS Gaard played some college ball in Portland, so he'll be one to watch. Marketing Director Dave Sonntag says he totally would've gone pro if he hadn't blown out his knee. Also, they call their VP their "secret weapon" (though that might just be because he's their boss).

TRASH TALK Our request for an interview last week was met with a haughty "I hope you know you are talking to the division champs from last year ... undefeated last year in fact." They have a lot to lose, and they admit that they're not in the form they were in last year, but they boast of their "grit." Says Ryan Gaard, "You gotta be ready to play some physical ball."

HOW WE'LL DOMINATE They're a tall team, so we'll likely have to beat them with an outside shot rather than tangle down below. Also, we can take advantage of their disorganization. Gaard and Sonntag say that they were well-practiced and had drawn-up plays before their championship tournament last year. But this year, they've struggled to practice once a week, and they've only ever played with the VP "a handful of times." Nice. (JS)

ZOO TOWN SPORTS (KECI-TV, MISSOULA)

WHO'S WHO At 5-foot-11, Martin Ross is the team's playmaker. In NBA terms, he compares his best friend Varyin Sriram to Marcus Camby and Darnay Tripp (at 6-foot-2, the tallest Zoo animal) to Dirk Nowitski. "He can hurt you both outside and inside," Ross says -- adding, however, that "I've never taken a shot with him." At their Missoula TV station, Ross says, "We're all in the sports department, all on-camera. So don't mess with the face."

THREATS They're young (average age: 24), they're in shape, and they're not traveling 200 miles just to fool around. On the other hand, Ross asked Hoopfest "not to give us the 8 am game. Because all of us are going to be out partying the night before."

TRASH TALK "The first reason we're going to beat you is that I have played Hoopfest many times and won five championships in the high school elite division," says Ross. "The second reason we're going to beat you is that we've been training with the NCAA tournament-qualifying Lady Griz women's basketball team -- full-court games, three times a week. And the third reason is that we're from the 406, and we're way tougher in Montana than you are in Spokane."

HOW WE'LL DOMINATE By praying that the wisdom of experience can outfox the impulsiveness of youth. Zoo Town's coming with only the three players, however, and Ross has had "a couple of major knee surgeries" ... so a little Jeff Gillooly action might give Media teams a bit of an advantage, you know what I mean? (MB)

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TEAM INLANDER -- Luke "White Thunder" Baumgarten

Music Editor

6-foot-3, 185 lbs.

Motto "Enterprise. We'll pick you up."

Strengths Baumgarten takes the advice of rapper Juvenile and does indeed "back that ass up." He can push smaller defenders into the next county and has appeared in strong man competitions butt-bumping freight trains down railroad tracks. After edging opponents down into the key, he finishes with a graceful spin and a usually effective left-handed hook.

Weaknesses Despite his imposing size and reckless physicality, "White Thunder" is not a perfect player, and he frequently beats himself up over lost balls and blown jumpers. Defenders find it easy to get inside his head (though they don't find it a very pleasant place to linger).

Signature Move An ambidextrous baby hook shot that lacks the dramatic sweep of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's but can plunge defenders into irrevocable depression (when he makes it).

Trivia Baumgarten was a Northwest regional Science Bowl all-star in 1999. So that's good....

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Other HOOPFEST Highlights

by Doug Nadvornick

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & H & lt;/span & oopfest isn't just for the players; there are plenty of things to occupy basketball fans. Spectators who come for Saturday morning's 7:45 am opening ceremonies at Nike Center Court could stay all day and be entertained. Teams in the Elite Division will play all morning. At 12:30 pm and 1 pm, they'll break for the women's and men's slam dunk contests, before going back to the courts for afternoon games. On Sunday, the elite players start at 8 am with their later-round games, leading to the women's elite championship game at 3:15 pm. The elite men will take over at 4 pm for semifinal games. The men's 6-foot-and-under elite championship is scheduled for 5 pm; the over-6-foot division will decide its champion at 5:45 pm.

This year Hoopfest will feature collegiate players in the Qdoba College Division. Those games will be played on Spokane Falls Boulevard, between Stevens and Washington. Some of the region's better high school age and younger players will compete on the Dairy Farmers of Washington Youth Center Court on Spokane Falls Boulevard. Members of the Seattle Seahawks' Sea Gals dance team will be on hand to dance, sign a few autographs and pontificate about the role of milk in a healthy diet.

For those who enjoy long-range sharp-shooting (and maybe tossing up a few balls themselves), the Toyota Shootout will run all four days, Thursday and Friday at Nike Center Court, Saturday and Sunday at the Safeco Skill Zone on Spokane Falls Boulevard. The semifinals begin Sunday at 2:30 pm and the finals at 3:30 pm. If you're not an elite shooter but still want to try your luck at 3-pointers and free throws, you can buy $1 tickets that get you on the court Saturday and Sunday at the Safeco Skill Zone.

Food vendors will be in park all weekend and, if music is your thing, stop by the Lilac Bowl in Riverfront Park between 3 and 10 pm on Thursday for the Pre-Funk Community Concert, featuring several major label recording artists, including X Levitation Cult, Royal Bliss, Adrian McKinnon and Delta Goodrem.

Parking is available in the River Park Square, Parkade, Bank of America and City Ramp parking garages and in the surface lots around the core. On-street parking will be limited, due to the hundreds of basketball courts occupying the streets.

Hoopfest officials are touting the STA Hoop Loop for players who don't want to drive downtown. For a $1 day pass, players can take the bus downtown and back home when they're done. Spokane Transit has set up two shuttle routes for players who park on the outside edges of the core -- one that runs to and from the downtown park-and-ride lots and one that runs to the Riverpoint and Gonzaga campuses; they run every 10 minutes. Visit spokanetransit.com for more information.

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TEAM INLANDER -- Jer "Boss Hog" McGregor

General Manager

6-foot-1, 195 lbs.

Motto "Just one more year"

Strengths McGregor was a state champ athlete at Gonzaga Prep in the late '80s, so he comes to the team with some real credentials. Easily the biggest basketball nut on the team, he knows his way around the court and knows how to move everybody else around the court. An aggressive inside player with an unstoppable step-through, he can also sink it from outside.

Weaknesses "Boss Hog" has never seen a shot he didn't like. Hooks, floaters, reverse lay-ups, long balls -- he'll shoot any junk shot he can take, especially late in the game, and especially if the old knee injury flares up.

Signature Moves "The White Rabbit," an underhanded flip shot in which McGregor seems to magically pull the ball from his pocket and float it effortlessly between defenders' arms and over their heads. It's a sight to behold.

Trivia There is absolutely nothing trivial about the guy who signs our paychecks. Absolutely nothing.

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Gaming the System

by Luke Baumgarten

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & s you can already tell from Joel Smith's introductory treatise (page 18), we're going to be exploiting more than just our opponents' excess belly fat and lack of court awareness at Hoopfest this year.

Because the tournament doesn't drug-test, for example, Michael Bowen has been injecting Human Growth Hormone in the most unsavory of places. Because there's no one around enforcing the Bush Administration's ban, Jacob Fries has been eating stem cells for breakfast. We aren't just out to beat our opponents. We're out to beat the whole system.

In that spirit, we've scoured Hoopfest's extensive rulebook for strange, arcane and downright stupid rules to exploit. Here's what we found.

TWO-POINT SHOT

Having a two-point line is ridiculous -- the equivalent of a four-point shot in traditional ball. If you have any kind of shooter on your team, unleash him. Take any open look behind the arc you get.

FOULING

It's impossible to foul out, so anytime you're in a mismatch situation against a superior player, slap at son's wrists. Throw your body into him. This is street ball. Don't kill the guy, though -- court monitors have the power to call intentional, technical and flagrant fouls. Here are some specific fouling situations:

Hack a Shaq

If you're on a behemoth who's great in low but a mess from mid-range, exploit that. Go for the strip every time. Block at every shot. If you don't get ball, make sure you get wrist. Or forearm. Or shoulder. Whatever. Keep the ball out of the basket. Make him get his points at the line.

Foul Two-Point Shooters

All fouls shoot one free throw -- even fouls on two-pointers. So, if your man is deadly from behind the arc, negate his advantage by fouling him every time he shoots from there. Make sure the ball goes nowhere near the rim. He'll only get one free throw and -- make or miss -- you'll get the ball back.

Offensive Fouls

There's no mention of offensive fouls in the rulebook, and general street ball etiquette says that any defensive player who calls a charge on someone driving to the basket will enjoy limitless criticism and personal insult. You just don't call charges. Ever. So, especially if you're a short, scrappy guard driving into a lane full of redwood-sized big men: Target their bodies, get all up in them and take your shot. If you don't make it, call a foul.

INBOUNDING

One of the strangest rules in Hoopfest is that, even after a defender checks the ball, the offensive player still can't dribble or shoot until he's made one pass. The rule makes a degree of sense, preventing an Allen Iverson type from playing one-on-one all game, but it gives the defense an advantage until the ball's in play. Dude can't move, so if you're guarding, either get all up in him or take the opportunity to double team the stronger of the remaining players. Force their weak link to get some touches.

EQUIPMENT

"No player shall be allowed to wear ... potentially dangerous equipment on his or her elbow, hand, wrist, finger or forearm," proclaim the rules, so spy shoes with hidden knives seem to be kosher, as do horned Viking helmets.

& lt;hr &

TEAM INLANDER -- Joel "Handlebar" Smith

Staff Writer

5-foot-9, 135 lbs.

Motto "Who wants a mustache ride?"

Strengths N/A

Weaknesses Inferior stature, poor ball-handling skills, no long-range shot, no short-range shot, a marked inability to penetrate the lane, no discernible defensive skills, a sense of profound confusion in off-ball situations. (Smith was totally arm-twisted into being the team's fifth man, as they thought he might lull opposing teams into a false sense of confidence before unleashing better players on them.)

Signature Move Nobody serves Gatorade, rubs shoulders, shouts supportively and towels teammates down better than the Handlebar. (Not to mention hijacking this week's cover section for 12 pages of Team Inlander coverage.)

Trivia Playing for the fifth-grade Jefferson Elementary Eagles in 1991, Smith missed a wide-open lay-up after stealing the ball on a fast break. It has haunted him ever since.

& lt;hr &

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