By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
SEATTLE — What began as an almost whimsical idea has evolved into one of the premier basketball events in the Seattle area this year.
On Sunday afternoon, two teams of former University of Washington players will square off in an alumni game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. And this is no rollicking contest featuring a bunch of huffin’, puffin’ geezers.
Ten of the 19 players spent all or part of the 2012-13 season on NBA rosters. Two others played previously in the NBA, and three spent last season playing professionally overseas.
For fans hungering for the return of pro basketball, Sunday’s game should be a tasty treat indeed. Among those scheduled to play are Spencer Hawes (Philadelphia 76ers), Tony Wroten (Memphis Grizzlies), Isaiah Thomas (Sacramento Kings), Brandon Roy (Minnesota Timberwolves), Nate Robinson (Chicago Bulls) and Terrence Ross (Toronto Raptors).
Also on hand will be Snohomish product Jon Brockman, a former NBA player who spent last season with Limoges CSP of the top French pro league. Brockman is Washington’s all-team leader in career rebounds and is No. 2 in scoring.
One of Washington’s most successful recent alums, Quincy Pondexter (Memphis Grizzlies), is trying to arrange his schedule to be there. Pondexter is participating in an NBA-sponsored 3-on-3 event in Singapore, and wasn’t sure he could get to Seattle in time.
Sunday’s game will be “a celebration for all our players to get out there on the floor, and to let people come and cheer for them again as Huskies,” said UW head coach Lorenzo Romar, who organized the event. “I think these guys enjoyed their time here, and I just thought it’d be good to get everyone back together.”
Romar said he got the idea from various alumni events at the University of Connecticut, and from seeing ex-players occasionally scrimmage against his recent UW teams.
“When we were able to scrimmage behind closed doors against these guys, I thought, ‘Man, that’d really be good.’ I’m looking at these guys playing out there and I’m thinking, ‘This is fun to watch. Other people should be able to see this.’”
So Romar started contacting former players, all the while unsure how many would want to participate. As it turned out, all of them did.
“I thought we might have to twist some arms,” he said. “But (the response) has been overwhelmingly positive. … These guys have really embraced it.”
Moreover, he said, “this will be a real game. There will be officials, cheerleaders, a band, starting lineups. It’s a game.”
Romar divided the alums into two teams — one called pre-2009 and the other called after-2009. The funny thing was, players from both squads lobbied for Brockman since his UW career (2005-06 to 2008-09) overlapped the two teams.
“The guys in this game all wanted to play with Jon Brockman and they didn’t want to play against him,” Romar said. “I thought that was interesting. Because career-wise, there are guys who have been more successful in the NBA. But not many have been more successful here at Washington. … I think he’s one of the most respected (former) Huskies out there.”
Romar expects there will be some showmanship, meaning “the game could start out with an All-Star game feel.” But since bragging rights are at stake, “in those last eight minutes I have a feeling those guys are going to be getting after it.”
The afternoon begins at 1 p.m. with a Legends game featuring players from much earlier years. Romar, a former Husky himself, said he might lace up his sneakers for that contest, though he might not last much longer “than the first TV timeout,” he joked.
The alumni game will follow, likely starting around 2:30 p.m. A 3-point contest will take place at halftime of the alumni game, and a dunk contest will follow the game. Among the dunk participants will be Robinson and Ross, two recent winners of the NBA’s Slam Dunk contest.
Whether the alumni game turns into an annual event will depend on “what type of response we have,” Romar said. “But if the response is really good in terms of interest, and if our players feel like they’d love to continue to do it, then we’d have to look at that.”