By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
SEATTLE — For Jon Brockman and some fellow former Huskies, Sunday’s University of Washington alumni event was a basketball game, a reunion and, best of all, a few hours of great fun.
Brockman, the Snohomish native, was joined by scores of other ex-Washington players for an afternoon of hoops that featured a legends game for older players, a 3-point contest and a dunk contest.
But the highlight for the sellout crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena — upwards of 10,000 people squeezed inside — was clearly the alumni game for elite players of the past decade.
Of the 19 players in the alumni game, 10 played some or all of last season in the NBA, including all six first-round picks of the Lorenzo Romar era. Two others played previously in the NBA and three more played professionally overseas last season.
The players were divided between two teams, Pre-2009 in White and Post-2009 in Purple, and when it was over the Purple squad had a 107-103 victory in a game that was sometimes rag-tag, but always entertaining.
For fans who remembered Brockman in his playing days at Washington — four years, culminating with the 2008-09 season — it was a very Brockman-like showing. Playing for the Purple squad, he took just four shots, had five points, snagged a team-high 11 rebounds, and spent much of the game defending good friend and former teammate, Spencer Hawes of the Philadelphia 76ers.
“This was fun,” Brockman said afterward. “It was just a pleasure to be able to come back and play in front of a sold-out crowd. I was shocked (by the fan support). I couldn’t believe it. That made it really special.
“And then being able to see all the guys. It was like a family reunion. We spend so much time together while we’re here … but then we all go our separate ways and you don’t get to see everyone. And now we’re playing all over the world. So it just makes this really special.”
Brockman played his first three pro seasons in the NBA, but a serious right eye injury shortly before training camp last fall kept him from sticking with the Houston Rockets. He ended up playing last season with Limoges CSP of the top pro league in France.
On Sunday Brockman said his injured eye “is not 100 percent, but it’s close.” He said the damage is probably permanent, “but it’s so minor that it’s nothing. I have just a little cloudiness in my right eye, but I barely notice it.”
Brockman said he expects to play for the New Orleans Hornets in the Las Vegas Summer League, and then hopes to be invited to an NBA training camp in the fall. He has a contract in France for next season, but there is an opt-out clause to play in the NBA.
“It’s so special when you’re playing in the United States,” he said. “But I enjoyed my time in France, and I won’t be disappointed whatsoever if I end up going back there.”
Sunday’s alumni MVP was guard Isaiah Thomas, currently of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. He finished with a game-high 24 points for the Purple team, one point better than Tre Simmons of the White team. Also on the White team, Hawes had 21 points and 17 rebounds, and Will Conroy had 16 points and 11 assists, but also 10 turnovers.
Two players hustled to Seattle for the game, arriving just hours before tipoff. Bobby Jones was coming from Italy where his pro team played in the Italian League championships, while Quincy Pondexter was in Singapore as an NBA representative at a 3-on-3 event. Both were on flights that arrived in Seattle on Sunday morning.
Justin Dentmon won the 3-point contest, which also featured Quincy Pondexter, Ryan Appleby, Tre Simmons and Nate Robinson.
Darnell Gant was a surprise winner in the dunk contest, but a lob pass to himself off the shot clock helped give him the edge over Justin Holiday, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Terrence Ross, the latter the reigning NBA Slam Dunk champion. Judges for the dunk contest included former Seattle SuperSonics guard Slick Watts, current Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, movie actor Jim Caviezel (a Mount Vernon native) and UW football coach Steve Sarkisian.
The afternoon began with a legends game, with former UW stars Steve Hawes and George Irvine coaching teams of older, grayer and decidedly heavier ex-Huskies. Romar, the UW coach, gave the crowd reason to cheer with a trio of first-half 3-pointers, and Donald Watts showed he still has some spring with a pair of dunks. Romar finished with 11 points and was named the game’s MVP.
One of the day’s loudest cheers came during a second-half timeout of the alumni game. Thomas was asked to re-create his game-winning shot against Arizona in the championship game of the 2011 Pacific-12 Conference tournament. He dribbled to the top of the key, did a cross-over step and then lifted a step-back jumper from left of the key that touched nothing but net — exactly as it did against the Wildcats.
Earlier Romar welcomed the crowd, and said the response from ex-players and fans was so great “that you make a compelling case to do this again.”