Alumni game raises money for charity

by Corina Gebbers

What do you get when a medley of professors, authors and graduated basketball stars come together on the hardwood? A down to the wire charity basketball game, complete with hook shots, air balls and alley-oops.

On April 9, HooPalousa put on its second annual event to raise funds for the American Indian Graduate Fellowship in Creative Writing, a scholarship created by the University of Idaho’s Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing to help get more Native American students into writing classes.

HooPalousa began when National Book Award winner and filmmaker Sherman Alexie, along with three other regional authors, visited a University of Idaho novel workshop. The group of nationally acclaimed authors and basketball junkies put on their first game last November between the Moscow SuperSonnets and the Spokane Dirty Realists.

This year, the Dirty Realists aimed to improve their 1-0 record when they faced the Whitworth Wordsmiths in the Fieldhouse last Monday, but fell short 101-96 in an exhilarating finish.

The two teams were represented by past all-stars from Whitworth and Gonzaga, including David Pendergraft (Gonzaga), Michael Taylor (Whitworth), and Brian Williams (Whitworth); current professors, including Jim McPherson and Dale Soden; authors Shan Ray, Jess Walter, and Sam Ligon; as well as Whitworth head men’s basketball coach Matt Logie and women’s head basketball coach Helen Higgs.

“It was fun to come back and play at Whitworth where we had an amazing season,” Taylor said. “[And] it was a good opportunity to play against some of the GU guys I grew up watching.”

After 11 minutes of action, Spokane trailed Whitworth by just three points. Gonzaga’s Casey Calvary, a two-time All-West Coast Conference First Team selection in 2000 and 2001, sent down several two-handed dunks, reliving the time he spent around the rim for the Bulldogs and keeping the Dirty Realists within points of the Wordsmiths. But MVP of the night, Soden, banked in a hook shot from the right side of the key with a minute to go, and Whitworth went up 52-46 at half.

“[There’s called] the MVP and the courtesy MVP,” Soden said. “But really, I’ve watched so many of these guys, so to be out there and to be able to tell my grandkids that for one night I got to play with these guys is great.”

Despite the laid-back environment of the game, the competitive nature of the players emerged in the second half as the game stayed close.

“Most of us are fairly competitive,” Pendergraft said. “It went from smiles to wanting the ‘W’.”

Late in the game, Ray nailed a trey to bring Spokane within two of Whitworth’s 93 points. Then, after a Whitworth layin, Calvary tipped the ball in for Spokane with just 22 seconds remaining. Like any big game, it came down to a handful of free throws, and Whitworth made six in the final minute, earning the championship trophy for the Wordsmiths.

All in all, it was a successful event for a great cause, bringing together different facets of community, education and good ol’ competition.

Contact Corina Gebbers at

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