Vashon Islanders of all ages play on asphalt at Spokane Hoopfest

During the last week of June, 35 families from Vashon traveled to the biggest basketball tournament in the world, Spokane’s Hoopfest.

Vashon sent 14 teams to compete in 3-on-3 basketball, with players ranging from 8 years old to well past 40 (a team evocatively named “Plump”).

This year, Spokane’s Hoopfest broke all previous records for participation, with 25,000 players, 6,400 teams, 3,000 volunteers, and 200,000 fans.

Hoopfest is perfect for anyone who loves basketball, but people sometimes have funny ways of showing their love. Medical volunteers treated 60 cases of dehydration, 300 wounds, and 20 broken bones. Our teams treated several injuries of our own, most from falls to the rugged asphalt at full speed. Mid-90s heat drove court temperatures to as high as 140 degrees.

There is no denying that the 3-on-3 street game played at Hoopfest is rough, even for the little kids.

It sounds like hell, and 140 degrees on the court surface in direct sunlight feels like hell. There were so many Island teams that it was impossible to see all the games. After our return, some of the group met to discuss what we would do differently.

Surprisingly, despite how large the Vashon contingent has grown, everyone seemed to have a great time. Most stayed at the same hotel. Two large swimming pools soothed the kids after games in the hot sun. Kids rejuvenated immediately; parents required more extensive recuperation but came around.

The Vash-onites made a good impression, on and off the court. Everyone who played improved their game. But the true measure of success was made by watching what happened after the tournament.

On the way home, with temperatures climbing to over 100 degrees, most of the kids carried their basketballs and dribbled them at rest stops on the way back to Vashon. Others have been reported to be going outside after dinner to take shots on their backyard hoops.

If the kids came back liking basketball a little bit more than when we left for Spokane, then it was a success, a huge success.

To hell with the Sonics. Basketball is alive and well on Vashon.

— David Jennings is the father of Rhys, Steen and Griff Jennings, who competed in Hoopfest.

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