SEATTLE-Ryan Webb stood in the key at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, looking up – way up – at the basket above him.
As the Mountlake Terrace High graduate tried to adjust to the hoops – which were raised from 10 to 11 feet Tuesday – it took him back to his childhood.
“I felt like I was back in the sixth grade trying to shoot at a 10-foot hoop,” said Webb, an all-conference guard at Seattle University before graduating this spring. “It’s definitely a big change, a noticeable change.”
The hoops on the Huskies’ home court have been raised for today’s exhibition game dubbed “For the Love of the Game.”
The game, which starts at 1 p.m. and will be televised on FSN, is the creation of longtime basketball coach Tom Newell, the son of hall of fame coach Pete Newell.
Tom Newell, who has coached in the NBA, the WNBA and is now a founding partner of the podcast website FamilySportsLifeToday.com, said he was motivated to create this game after watching a few Sonics games last year.
A self-described basketball purist, Newell hopes today’s game can be an example of what he thinks basketball should be.
Instead of dunks and 3-pointers, he wants to see fundamentals and team play.
“I’m tired of watching a team game become so individualized in our country,” he said. “Kids want to dunk and take 3-point shots. In most cases, kids today really have a misconception of how the game was developed. We need to figure out how to bring back the basics of basketball. There’s nothing better than to watch a play executed with two or three players involved.”
Newell thinks raising the hoop is a good way to bring back the basics. Another major change for today’s game is the elimination of the three-point shot for the first three quarters.
Fans at the game will be given handheld devices made by Puyallup-based Qwizdom, allowing them to give instant feedback by answering questions posted on the arena’s jumbotron.
The game, which will be played by teams made up mostly of former college players with Northwest ties, is not a gimmick in Newell’s mind. He said observers from the NCAA and the NBA will be in attendance.
“I’m putting something out there to raise an argument saying, ‘why not consider it?’” he said. “Like my dad says, there are guys out there now who can dunk with their teeth. There’s a generation that has come up now with video games and adjustable baskets in the driveway and they are growing up wanting to dunk. That’s fine, but at some point you’ve got to work on the fundamentals. I think that’s what’s really missing right now. Kids play for individual achievement. Am I generalizing? Probably. But I don’t like what I see in the game right now.”
The teams will be coached by former UCLA coach Jim Harrick and Paul Woolpert, the coach of the Continental Basketball Association’s Yakima Sun Kings.
Webb and the rest of the players aren’t sure what to expect.
“Even layups are a lot different,” said Webb. “When you jump you’re used to slapping the glass when you get up there, now you’re slapping the bottom of the net. I want to say that there are going to be more points coming at close range. More floaters, more post ups, but I’m just not sure. It will be fun to find out though.”
Not long removed from his senior season at Washington, Brandon Burmeister has gone through countless practices and games at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, but even he was experiencing something new when he walked onto the court Tuesday.
“I didn’t expect it to look as high as it does,” said the 6-4 guard who, like everyone else on the floor, looked shorter than usual while going through drills under the 11-foot baskets. “I expected it to obviously be a little bit different, but I didn’t think it was going to stand out as much.”
Newell’s changes may seem radical, but Burmeister thinks the game will play out like the coach wants it to.
“We’ll see a lot of team basketball,” said Burmeister, who shot plenty of three pointers in his Washington career. “Without the three-point line, it should force us to get better shots, get inside and get open looks. It’s going to be hard not to fire them in the first three quarters though, even though it’s only worth two.”
Like Webb, Burmeister was taken back to his childhood during the first day of practice. As players took turns shooting free throws, Burmeister and several others jumped with a running start, trying to slap the back board.
“It was like sixth grade, trying to get the foam on the back board,” said Burmeister who, for the record, got the foam.
With his college playing days now behind him, Webb plans to explore options to play in Europe or South America.
“My body isn’t done with basketball yet and I’m looking forward to a new experience,” he said.
Today, he will have to look no farther than the UW campus for a new experience.
“I can tell you this,” he said. “It will be interesting, that’s for sure.”