Standing 6 feet 1, Tony Binetti has grown accustomed to the rim seeming a little bit farther away from him than to most of his teammates...
Standing 6 feet 1, Tony Binetti has grown accustomed to the rim seeming a little bit farther away from him than to most of his teammates and opponents.
But this was something else.
“Just walking in the gym, it just looks massive,” Binetti said Tuesday as he glanced up at a rim 11 feet above the court at Edmundson Pavilion.
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Earlier that day, University of Washington athletic department personnel used 1-foot wood platforms to raise the standards for an exhibition game Saturday.
Tom Newell, a former Sonics assistant coach and now co-director of Family SportsLife Today, is staging the exhibition. He has titled it, “For the Love of the Game,” to show basketball might be better-played with an 11-foot hoop.
Newell thinks it will decrease dunking and the emphasis on individual play and increase teamwork and passing. A few other rules will also be tweaked, such as not allowing three-point shots until the fourth quarter.
Tipoff is Saturday at 1 p.m. and admission is free, though a canned-food donation for Northwest Harvest is requested. The game will air live on FSN and KJR (950 AM).
Newell has been planning the event for months but finally saw the hoops go up Tuesday morning.
“I feel like an 11-year-old,” Newell said as the work was completed.
That night, the players gathered for the first practice. It escaped no one’s notice that at the same time, Game 3 of the NBA Finals was being played to record-low TV ratings.
“The main thing everybody asks me is whether they would ever really change the baskets,” Newell said. He tells them “that’s not my decision,” but he hopes to provide some evidence in case the conversation ever gets serious.
Players spent a half-hour or so before practice shooting around, figuring out the necessary adjustments.
“It seems higher than I thought it would,” said Ryan Coldren, who plays at Seattle University.
Coldren eventually adjusted his shot, then added, “It will be interesting to see how it works in the flow of the game.”
Many players didn’t seem to have much trouble with jump shots. Finding the right angle for bank shots was initially trickier, though that, too, seemed to come quickly during practice. Players banked seven straight during one early drill.
The biggest difference will be in the type of shots attempted.
“It’s going to take away the super-athletic player who just runs and dunks over you,” said Brandon Burmeister, one of two former UW players expected to participate. “It’s going to put more of a focus on rebounding and passing and fundamentals. And there’s not going to be as much settling for quick, long shots.”
Dontay Harris, a 6-8 former Drake player now with the Tacoma Thunder of the International Basketball League, noticed an immediate difference in inside play.
“You can’t just get the ball and turn around and drop it in,” he said. “Now there’s another eight inches to go. It’s definitely a challenge.”
After this week’s practices, players will be split into two teams for Saturday’s game.
The teams will be led by Jim Harrick, former coach at UCLA who is now coaching in the NBA Development League, and Paul Woolpert, coach of the Yakima Sun Kings of the Continental Basketball Association.
Newell has solicited Qwizdom, a Puyallup technology company, to help chart every play. Qwizdom will provide 1,000 interactive remotes to spectators to get instant feedback.
The players, mostly former college players with local ties — current NBA players aren’t allowed to participate because of league rules — are curious to see what unfolds. Except for basketball shoes, a few meals from sponsors, and some exposure, the players are volunteering their time.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Binetti, a former Seattle Pacific player home for a few months between pro stints in Italy. “We’re going to be part of something unique.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org