High hoops, high hopes, and highly anticipated

Updates: The basket is briefly elevated to 11 feet, a Husky bails out of college for the NBA, and Junior is returning.
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Updates: The basket is briefly elevated to 11 feet, a Husky bails out of college for the NBA, and Junior is returning.

It isn't unusual to see a National Basketball Association game end with a score in the range of 90-60. That's why it might have surprised the 800-odd onlookers at Hec Edmundson Pavilion at the University of Washington in Seattle on June 16 to witness a regulation-time, 48-minute game end with that score, the differences being a lack of NBA-caliber players and hoops set at 11 feet rather than 10. As we noted here last week, the exhibition was an attempt to test the efficacy of raising the rim for pro and men's college basketball. It would encourage team play, theorized the organizers, who report during the aftermath that teamwork - passing, ball-handling, and selective shooting - is precisely what they witnessed. According to Kelly Burkett, who was affiliated with the event, top scorer was Brayden Billbe, a nearly seven-foot Mercer Island-bred center who played at American University. Former Husky player Brandon Burmeister led the losing team with 10 points. Burkett said "no specific plans are currently in the works" for another try at High Hoops, though organizers want to stage more games. Meanwhile, some in attendance seemed to approve. According to Burkett, of those polled, 68 percent think the NBA and college men's basketball should elevate to 11 feet; 84 percent said the baskets should not be raised for high-school basketball; 78 percent want all women's competition to keep using the 10-foot standard. No change in hoop height seems likely by the time Spencer Hawes dons his first NBA uniform. The Seattle Prep and one-year UW center seemed to surprise virtually nobody when he opted on Monday, June 18, to forego further NCAA wars in favor of what likely will be a top-12 (maybe as high as sixth) tab in the upcoming NBA draft. Blogs and jock-squawk radio greeted the Hawes decision with mixed opinions. What seems worth noting is just exactly how, ahem, academic a moot point can be when it pertains to an irrevocable college-level development, as the Hawes decision is. A few of the local scribes and a share of fans wished him luck and seemed ready to move on. Some supposed that Hawes, whose Husky output was limited by a nagging midseason illness, could turn up in Sonics togs. When this is imagined, however, it usually is followed by a two-second lag and an addendum about the Soops maybe only being here one more season. Also worth recalling is a dubious record of Seattle's pro outfits bringing in local heroes. Frank "Magic" Oleynick didn't quite live up to his Seattle University nickname with the Sonics; Jerramy Stevens, the errant former Seahawk, didn't really have a nickname because nobody could think of a one-word way of saying "why-don't-you-hire-a-driver?" Hawes, on the other hand, is of impeccable character and seems to be a can't-miss NBA center. He'd look terrific in Sonics colors and, hey, think of all the frequent-flyer miles his family and loved ones would accrue traveling to Oklahoma City to see him play. Another jock who practically seems home-grown returns this weekend. Ken Griffey Jr. will play at Safeco Field for the first time since he was traded to his natal Cincinnati after the 1999 season. Griffey did a minor-league stint in Bellingham, then came to Seattle at the start of the 1989 campaign. Many of us who were at the Kingdome when he dinged to left his first-ever home at-bat have marveled about his accomplishments (he also hit the last Kingdome home run, in 1999). As I type this, he's at 581 career home runs, and destined - perhaps within a few days - of reaching sixth on the all-time list when he passes Frank Robinson with long ball number 587. (Asterisk: That actually should put him at fourth, behind Aaron, Ruth, and Mays, if you toss out the tainted "accomplishments" of Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.) Many will say Griffey, finally having another all-star-caliber season this year, remains the greatest Mariner ever (though guys named Ichiro, Edgar, Randy, and Alex would get votes). That seems to explain why the coming weekend trio with the Reds is a virtual sellout, with 100- and 200-level seats pretty much gone. Indeed, even though Cincinnati was last in its division and the M's were coming off an 0-6 slide after the game with Pittsburgh Tuesday, June 19, clerks at two Mariners team stores reported that M's-Reds sales were even stronger than receipts for the M's-Red Sox series next week. This could be because Boston plays here during the week rather than a weekend. If nothing else, the sell-outs ought to make it obvious even to otherwise inept M's management of a need to sell off and spend whatever it takes to hire Griffey to play right field and DH for the remainder of his career. That probably will happen – the same day the NBA announces a move to 11-foot hoops.


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