Will Conroy leads Garfield past Rainier Beach in Adonai Hood Classic final
Former Husky scores 34 points to earn MVP honors in annual event featuring former Seattle high-school standouts
Special to The Seattle Times
When you're a tight-knit bunch like the fraternity of accomplished basketball players from Seattle's inner-city, events such as the Adonai Hood Classic basketball tournament aren't treated lightly.
The purpose is to bring together some of the city's best basketball players, many of whom are playing in the NBA, and give back to the community.
In its seventh year, the Hood Classic has become a celebration of inner-city basketball.
But, make no mistake, Will Conroy will remind you: Winning matters.
"You go the whole rest of the summer ... Some of these guys you hang out with on a day-to-day basis," said Conroy, the former Garfield High School and University of Washington star. "You don't want them to be like, 'Hey, we won the Hood Classic.' You've got to wait a whole year to repeat. This year it meant a lot for us to win this."
Conroy was one of two players with NBA experience who played in Garfield's 110-105 championship game victory over Rainier Beach on Sunday at the Bulldogs' home court.
He scored 24 of his team-high 34 points in the fourth quarter as Garfield held off Terrence Williams and the defending champion Vikings to win the tournament title for the first time since doing so in the event's first year.
Williams, of the New Jersey Nets, put on an outside shooting show with 41 points.
Neither Williams nor Conroy left the court.
"We didn't care about getting tired out here," said Conroy, who was named the tournament's most valuable player. "The game was more important."
Some NBA players such as Rainier Beach products Nate Robinson (Boston Celtics) and Jamal Crawford (Atlanta Hawks) played it safe by choosing not to play Sunday and instead sat on the bench. At least momentarily.
Robinson was as animated as ever and stood nearly the entire game, shouting encouragement, questioning official's calls and tossing his Colorado Rockies baseball cap across the floor on at least three occasions.
"He was into it," said Roderick Stewart, who started for Rainier Beach along with his brother Loderick. "It looked like he wanted to go into the room and suit up."
"It matters," Robinson said about winning. "It's bragging rights."
What mattered most, players agreed, was this special hoops reunion and community celebration.
Some national attention about Seattle's basketball pedigree, particularly an in-depth article in Sports Illustrated in February, cast light on the large number of NBA basketball players per capita that hail from the Emerald City.
"Seattle's on the map now," Crawford said. "It's not a secret anymore. Before, when I was coming out, Washington was known more as a football state. I think that's changed now."
"People are starting to open their eyes," Robinson said. "It's like, 'Dang, these guys can really play the game of basketball.' It's a beautiful thing."
The NBA players at the Hood Classic Sunday, including Seattle Prep graduate Spencer Hawes of the Philadelphia 76ers, mingled with young fans and signed autographs in a casual atmosphere despite some muggy conditions.
"We all support each other," Crawford said. "We're all out here for a good cause. Half the money that is being donated is going back to the community. In these times, I think that means everything. It takes pressure off these parents."
"It's a lot of fun to see all the familiar faces from growing up," Hawes said. "To kind of put on a show for the community and kids — that's what it's really about."
Hawes wore Seattle SuperSonics shorts — a reminder of what the city once had.
"These kids, they got their team robbed," Hawes said. "It's an issue near and dear to everyone's heart especially guys in Seattle who are now playing in the league."
• Former Husky Tre Simmons also played a big scoring role for Garfield with 31 points. The Bulldogs were without Portland Trail Blazers star Brandon Roy.
• The winners of the three-point shooting and slam dunk contests came from out of town.
Morris Anderson, a former Federal Way High School and Western Washington University star, won the three-point shooting contest.
Kevin Kemp, a graduate of Tacoma's Lincoln High School who didn't play basketball in college and is currently playing overseas in France, got a thunderous ovation for his acrobatic winning dunk.
As Garfield coach Ed Haskins held a basketball in the air, Kemp leapt over Haskins, put the ball under his leg with one hand and dunked it with the other. Robinson, a three-time winner of the NBA's slam dunk contest, was one of the Hood Classic's dunk contest judges. He was floored.
"Unbelievable," Robinson said. "Totally unbelievable."
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