The task seemed simple enough — cover five basketball games in five nights.
In many ways the assignment became an exploration for Seattle’s lost passion for basketball, which has been missing since the city lost the Sonics five years ago.
Some basketball fans abandoned the sport and discovered a new love, such as Sounders FC, while many others rekindled an old flame with the Seahawks.
A handful of diehard hoopheads still follow the NBA from a distance. Others — myself included — turned their attention to college and high-school games.
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Due to a quirk in scheduling, the men’s basketball teams at Washington, Seattle University and Seattle Pacific played on consecutive nights Wednesday through Sunday.
It was a rare opportunity to get an early glimpse of each team and savor the unmistakable sights and sounds of basketball in three vastly different settings.
The hoopathon began in Lower Queen Anne at KeyArena, the place where the Sonics died and the new home for the Redhawks.
Twenty minutes before tipoff the lower bowl is sprinkled with a couple hundred fans. The relatively low turnout belies a feeling of optimism that hovers over the team for the first time since Seattle U became a full-fledged Division I team.
The good vibes didn’t last long.
Seattle U fell behind early and trailed Cal State Fullerton by 17 points midway through the second half.
Down 14 with 4:24 left, the Redhawks unleashed a full-court press that forced three turnovers. That sparked a run of 14 straight points and helped SU tie the score at 65 with 3:07 remaining.
Luiz Bidart sealed the 75-71 SU victory with a three-pointer at the end.
“No question about it,” Bidart said. “That was one of the most amazing games I’ve ever been in.”
Stop Two on the hoopin’ around the city tour was a lesson in basketball physics, which says a 7-foot-6 giant trumps a four-guard Lilliputian lineup.
Washington came up short on the floor and on the scoreboard — 86-72 — against UC Irvine and the Anteaters’ freshman sensation, Mamadou Ndiaye, who had 18 points, eight rebounds and nine blocks.
The third night took us inside Brougham Pavilion on the north side of Queen Anne, where Seattle Pacific unveiled an offensively loaded team led by preseason All-American David Downs that’s ranked No. 2 in Division II.
Thanks to red-hot shooting from Patrick Simon, who sank four three-pointers and tied his personal best with 30 points, the home-opening, 94-78 win over Colorado Christian was never in doubt.
However, that didn’t stop the Orangemen — SPU students from the sixth floor of Ashton residence hall who wear orange jumpsuits — from partaking in the revelry until the end.
The next night, the Redhawks returned to the court for a 100-59 blowout over woefully overmatched NAIA Division II Evergreen State.
Coach Cameron Dollar, the former UCLA point guard who led the Bruins to a 1995 national championship, looks to have finally found a floor general in Isiah Umipig, who can match Dollar’s ultracompetitive temperament.
After the 41-point win, Umipig avoided talk about his 19-point performance and was more concerned with teammates who lost focus in the second half.
“We can’t have that,” he said, “if we want to be one of the good teams.”
And finally, the tour finished at Montlake, where the Huskies rebounded from an upset and perhaps discovered a star in Nigel Williams-Goss.
With the freshman point guard scoring a career-high 22 points and directing a frenetic small-ball attack, Washington overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half in a 92-80 win over Eastern Washington.
It was a thrilling finish that promises many more twists and turns in a college basketball season that’s just getting started.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.