Hoopfest Spotlight Shines on Adaptive Athletics

Eastern’s wheelchair basketball team started off the year’s Hoopfest weekend with a Friday exhibition game aimed at advancing visitors’ understanding and appreciation of their sport.  

“This event only proves that basketball, and sports in general, can bring everyone together, and most importantly, athletes are athletes,” says David Evjen, head coach of EWU’s Wheelchair Basketball team.

The exhibition attracted players from other colleges, as well as community members, who learned firsthand what it takes to navigate the court, play defense and put up shots from a wheelchair. 

David Evjen, head coach of the EWU’s team, says he appreciates Hoopfest’s support, as well as the platform they provided “to show everyone what we are growing here at EWU.”

Team captain Robert Hunt was among those participating in the exhibition. Earlier this year, Hunt was honored by the Intercollegiate Division of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association with an Academic All-American Honorable Mention award for the 2021-2022 collegiate season.

The team as a whole, part of EWU’s Adaptive Athletics program, got a shout-out from EWU’s new president, Shari McMahan, who made an appearance to celebrate their success and say hello to the many Eagle supporters in attendance. (President McMahan’s Twitter post is featured below.  Click on this link to read an article in The Spokesman-Review.)

EWU President Shari McMahan stopped by the Girl Scouts’ Girls in STEM mobile, which had an on-site location at Hoopfest thanks to an EWU sponsorship.

“Having President McMahan be a part of this event is truly amazing. With all of the programs that she is getting to know at EWU, we really appreciate her time and energy in making [it to] our event, and showing her support to our student-athletes,” Evjen said.

At the end of the exhibition, Sam Adams from KHQ challenged Dr. McMahan to participate in the #FoodBucketChallenge benefiting Northwest Harvest. Dr. McMahan accepted the challenge, made the shot, and then passed the challenge along to Greg Repetti of MultiCare.

There was also plenty else to celebrate over the weekend, as Spokane’s popular 3-on-3 basketball tournament was finally back in action after a two-year, pandemic-induced hiatus. Throughout the weekend, EWU, the tournament’s official Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Major Sponsor, helped amp up the festivities and improve the competition.

For instance, Eagle alumnus Jon Heimbigner ’70 helped to start a senior division at Hoopfest, and then played in that division. He and his wife, Karen ’69, received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2022 EWU Alumni Awards Gala for all of the amazing work they do in the community.

Team Hub Northwest, consisting of former college players, including EWU alumni basketball players Marc Axton and Parker Kelly, won in elite division play.

EWU sponsored five teams, including the Yakima Flight Boyz and the Brothers Trio, a team of Congolese refugees, pictured above, who were excited to play. Both teams applied through our DEI promotion via Hoopfest.

A number of university employees volunteered their time to distribute free Eagle swag from a booth set up in Riverfront Park near the Carrousel. Adding to the excitement were student athletes from the men’s and women’s basketball teams, Eagle football and the cheer squad. 

In all, close to three dozen Eagle athletes — along with their coaches — helped out over the course of Hoopfest’s three days. A veritable flood of people stopped by the booth to meet the players and cheerleaders, get autographs and pick up game schedules and swag, as well as admissions packets, said Kelsey Hatch-Brecek, Eastern’s alumni relations director: “The students didn’t have to volunteer, and yet they were there. It was great!”

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