There are some awful jump shots and more than a little clumsy dribbling at Hoopfest. If you wander through the tournament’s 454 courts you’re going to see a lot of it, and that’s totally fine. Actually, that clumsy dribbling is what makes Hoopfest a great community event. But there is also some serious balling happening within these 42 city blocks, and you’ll know it when you see it. The players will be a bit faster, the passes crisper, and on occasion someone will dunk.
At the elite end of the spectrum, the competition is intense. David Pendergraft will tell you that. He played from 2004 to 2008 at Gonzaga, making a name for himself with rugged under-the-basket skills and a shock of orange hair and averaging 8.7 points per game as a senior. He’s now GU’s director of athletic giving. This weekend, he’ll take his squad, sponsored by Douglass Properties, back into the 6-foot-and-over elite division, hoping to defend their 2012 title, earned by dominating a Seattle-area team in front of a couple thousand onlookers at the tournament’s Center Court.
This year, the team returns former Zag standout Josh Heytvelt, who plays professionally overseas, and Nik Raivio, a former University of Portland guard and brother of former Zag Derek Raivio. Last year’s team also featured another ex-Zag, Brian Michaelson, but he couldn’t make it this year.
“I had to go old school to fill that spot,” says Pendergraft. He opted to bring back Alex Hernandez, who wrapped up his GU career in 2002 and currently is an administrative assistant for Gonzaga’s men’s team.
The Douglass Properties team is one of the most high-level squads to take the court. For Pendergraft, this is the most competition he’ll see over the course of the year.
“It gets physical and intense. That’s what’s fun to me, to get that competition. That’s what I enjoy,” says Pendergraft. “Winning is fun, too.”
Growing up in the central Washington town of Brewster, Pendergraft never had a chance to play in Hoopfest during his younger years — he was always off at another tournament or camp when the weekend rolled around. Now living in Spokane with a wife and young child, he sees the event not just as a chance to go out there and show he’s still got it, but to put Spokane’s basketball reputation on display.
“In Spokane, basketball is one of our favorite things we gravitate toward as a community. I love that the city gives GU basketball and Hoopfest this sort of support,” says Pendergraft. “I mean, the growth of Hoopfest is amazing. You wouldn’t think they could build on something this big, but they have.”
This weekend, Pendergraft will have his game face on. His team enters with a target on their collective backs. They’re likely favorites, but he’s not going to predict a win.
“I’ve played the game too long to call a victory, but we’re excited about the team we have. We’ll definitely give it our best effort,” says Pendergraft.