THE FRONT ROW with MARK NELKE: After two straight years without, North Idaho players are excited about the return of Hoopfest


It was a family tradition that went on a two-year hiatus.

Everyone else too, of course.

Hoopfest returned to the streets of downtown Spokane for the first time — more or less — since 2019, when COVID-19 wiped out the last two years of the annual Hoops gathering that began in 1990.

Center Court, which was relocated under the tent in the US Pavilion at Riverfront Park, was a huge hit, with fans sprawling out on the grassy mound, in the stands and on the walkways above.

On Saturday morning, on a Main Street court, Talon Twoteeth, his father James and Talon’s cousins ​​Jonathan Nomee and Emmitt White won his first game 20-14, largely by shooting from Talon, who was in Lakeside’s 2020 Division 1A High played II champions.

“I’ve definitely gotten better at shooting, better than I was in high school,” Talon Twoteeth said. “Looking at old tapes … man, I’m a lot better than what I was.”

White was also part of that 2020 state title team coached by James, who has been the Knights coach for the past five years. Nomee played at Lakeside and graduated in 2013.

After graduating, Talon Twoteeth spent a year as a redshirt at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake and then returned to Plummer, where he worked in maintenance at the Coeur d’Alene Casino.

He said he hasn’t ruled out a return to college hoop play.

I’ll just keep working… I’ll definitely keep my options open,” Talon said. “I’ll definitely think about it.”

Many local players gather at the Plummer Wellness Center for a lunchtime hoops game – hence the name Noonball Hoopers.

James Twoteeth played on the only other Lakeside team to win a State Boys basketball title in 1997.

“It means a lot to me,” Talon said of the opportunity to play hoops with his father. “He taught me everything. I owe everything I know to him. It’s definitely fun to play with him.”

The Noonball Hoopers later lost their second game of the tournament on Saturday morning, then won twice in the losers bracket in the afternoon and will resume play this morning.

LATER ON Saturday morning, former Post Falls High star Marcus Colbert drove to the basket in a court on Spokane Falls Boulevard, went up for a shot … and injured his left ankle when he fell on the defender.

He watched the final minutes from the sidelines, holding on to his sore ankle as his Magic City team clinched a 20-17 victory.

“Who…takes a charge on the street?” said teammate Aaron McQuaid, who played basketball at Chelan High and in Central Washington.

“I’m done,” Colber said. “I had surgery on that ankle, so I stopped playing basketball.”

Colbert, who helped Post Falls win a state title in 2010, later played in the state of Montana. He played professionally in Belgium for a season before finally returning home where he works in property management.

“I came home (from Belgium) and went back to Montana State to train (while he was considering other professional offers) and I blew my ankle on the first run and then I had surgery. I never played again.”

But for Hoopfest’s return, Colbert wanted to play again.

Such was Deon Watson, who played AAU ball with Colbert growing up and later played against him at Coeur d’Alene High, where he excelled in two sports.

So the friends of AAU Ball banded together and then added McQuaid and another player who was a teammate of Colbert’s at Montana State. But when he didn’t make it, they found another guy who had played JC ball in California.

“We’ve been doing this since we were kids, so why not put a team together?” said Deon Watson. “He’s got a family, I mean starting, it’s great to come out with someone you know in that atmosphere.”

Watson, a Spokane-based pharmaceutical sales rep who says he tries to play 2-3 times a week, eventually sunk the game-winning basket when Magic City defeated Game Six Klay.

Magic City then lost their next game to Cookies and Kareem on Saturday afternoon and is scheduled to get back into action this morning with an 8:30 game.

When he’s not working and earning money, Deon Watson is the proud brother of Anton, who enjoyed a fine career as a forward with Gonzaga.

“I love watching my family succeed and pursue their dreams,” said Deon. “It’s definitely a blessing. Of him watching me grow up to watching him now is a magnificent sight. I love it. It’s one of the few times I love being on the sidelines.”

Deon continued to play football in Idaho, catching a touchdown pass as the Vandals won the famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2016.

Two years later, Idaho was relegated to FCS and returned to the Big Sky Conference.

“You see a lot of teams like Eastern … North Dakota State, succeed, and you look at Idaho as one of those teams,” Watson said. “So I have no problem with the switch; As a competitor, you always want to be up against the big dogs and some of the biggest competitors. There’s nothing quite like being able to attend a bowl game like we’ve done over the past few years.

“I always want to go to FBS, but if you can compete at FCS at a high level, I think that’s just as good.

Selfishly yes I want to go to a bowl game and be on TV but I understand why they made the change.

JUST AFTER 1:00 PM, in a Broadway seat just up the hill from Anthony’s restaurant, Daffy Duck, Lola, Bugs and Taz walked onto the seat and quickly scored a 20-5 win.

The Tune Squad at Hoopfest, wearing uniforms like those used in the LeBron James film Space Jam: A New Legacy, featured fraternal twins Riply Luna (Daffy Duck) and Kolby Luna (Lola) from Kellogg High and Lake City High Kolton Mitchell (Bugs) and Nathan Hocking (Taz).

The Luna twins and Mitchell have played together at AAU Ball and Hoopfest for years.

“We played with him in Silver Hoops, Coeur d’Alene Shootout, everything. Won it with him before.” Riply said.

“I thought it would be fun to get back together.”

While Mitchell and Hocking have been playing AAU basketball across the country this spring, the Luna twins have been busy with a ball of a different shape — attending college camps and other football showcases.

They were in three camps in Portland, as well as camps in Oregon, the state of Idaho, and Montana. They just got back from camp in Missoula on Friday night.

“I haven’t touched one (basketball) in a few months; I just focused on football,” said Riply, a left-handed quarterback.

Ditto Kolby, a wide receiver who shoots with his right hand.

“Just getting the attention, just being challenged by some players,” Kolby said of the benefits of attending all of these football camps. “It’s nice to be challenged and have a good competition.”

Both are looking forward to the upcoming football and basketball seasons, which will see Kellogg drop from 3A to 2A for at least the next two years. And the Wildcats were a pretty good team in both sports back in 3A.

Although they haven’t played much basketball lately, they look forward to playing for Mike Martin in his third season as the Kellogg Boys basketball coach.

“I love Mike,” Riply said. “I love his energy, I love his pace, I love being coached by Mike. He really knows the game well. He is very invested in the program; prepare for summer league stuff; really wants his players to develop and get better.”

On Saturday, the Luna twins had to brace themselves for no-look passes from Mitchell, who will be Lake City‘s starting point guard for a fourth season next year.

“He’s the best player I’ve ever played with,” Kolby said. “He can shoot it, he can hit it; His vision on the pitch is next level… he’s an incredible player.”

“He really has no weaknesses,” Riply added. “He can go left and right, he can pass, he can shoot, he can score in every level. Plays good defence, involves his teammates.”

The team, officially dubbed Da Squad in the brackets, won twice on Saturday and will resume play this morning at 8am.

Mark Nelke is sports editor at The Press. He can be reached at 208-664-8176, ext. 2019 or by email to [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @CdAPressSports.

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