There are 3 days in a calendar year I get absurdly excited about. Christmas, Thanksgiving and…Hoopfest. Yes, you read that correctly. I look forward to playing in Hoopfest more than I look forward to celebrating my birthday, dressing up for Halloween, tailgating Husky Football or ringing in New Years. I can’t quite explain my ridiculous passion for this annual event, other than it’s an addiction I must feed once a year.
My love affair with Hoopfest began 4 years ago and only grows stronger with each passing summer. This tournament not only allows me to continue playing basketball at a very high level, but is also a great way to spend a weekend with my closest friends. Though the roster has been tweaked over the years, the past 2 summers we’ve definitely found the winning combination. TBA (“To Be Announced” – witty right?) plays hard, plays to win and always has fun. Our roster is composed of 4 former collegiate players who all have spent at least one year playing professionally abroad. Who are these talented women you ask? Well, without further adieu, let me introduce you to team TBA…
Casey Nash – 6’1”, Stayton, OR, Oregon State ’07. The oh so smooth lethal lefty. You think she’s right handed, but nope…she’s taking you left all day. Lay up drill!
Amy Taylor – 5’9”, Shoreline, WA, Seattle Pacific ’05. TBA’s hardnosed 3-point specialist will cross you up in a second if you try to take away her range.
Lindsey Wilson – 5’9”, Seattle, WA, Iowa State ’03. Our fearless leader with a ridiculously dangerous pull up jumper. Period.
And me. Breanne Watson – 6’1”, Richmond, B.C., Washington ’07. I’m here to protect the paint and tirelessly crash the boards…REBOUND! ☺
Though somewhat biased, I really do believe our team has the perfect combination of skill, determination and desire. The 4 of us compliment each other on (and off) the court; we know our roles and don’t stray from them. This is a huge reason why we have been so successful as a group. No one is worried about stats or who takes the last shot. We all know each other’s strengths and play to them. There’s nothing quite like playing with people who have the same goal and don’t care about individual performance. It sounds cliché, but it's the truth. I’ve traveled the world and have played in some pretty big time, important games. But hooping with TBA is the most fun I’ve had on a basketball court. It’s the most cohesive, passionate, caring group I’ve ever played with. These girls are some of the best teammates I’ve ever had and I freakin’ love them!
So, imagine my excitement when June 26, 2010 finally rolled around. I had been waiting all year for exactly this moment - the TBA reunion! After sharing countless hugs and smiles all round after the rendez-vous in Seattle, the girls and I jumped in Lindsey’s car and were off. It was time to begin the 5-hour road trip to Spokane. Though a bit of a drive, the time spent in the car is a huge part of the Hoopfest experience. Since we all live in different parts of the Northwest, we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. This time on the road allows us to catch up on each other’s lives, update on recent happenings and reminisce great memories. That being said, I believe the best part of the road trip this year may have been the music. Of course everyone has a favorite singer/band/genre they want to listen to during the trek across I-90, but there’s nothing quite like listening to a teammate sing/rap a pre-recorded song about our team. Ladies and gentlemen, let me once again introduce you to our amazingly talented guard Amy Taylor. Not only does she save lives (she’s a nurse), but she’ll hit a jumper in your eye then sing about it. Or rap. The girl is unbelievably gifted! Needless to say, we popped in the CD anticipating Amy’s Hoopfest song debut – one that may or may not have stayed on repeat all weekend…
Click here to listen to Amy T’s first Hoopfest single! How awesome is that???
Arriving in Spokane with Amy’s rap committed to memory, we were off to find the Couch family residence. Who are the Couch’s? Well, they are some seriously wonderful people that’s who! Last summer at Hoopfest we had quite a following. People say it was our impressive play and engaging personalities that led to our popularity, however, I’m convinced it was the lime green jersey’s I designed…anyway, during the 2009 weekend we met a super friendly family with two young daughters. They came to watch most of our games and cheered us on faithfully. After winning our bracket in the scorching Saturday sun, they invited us to a neighborhood BBQ. Not only did we enjoy great food, but we met some great people, making for a memorable night. A few weeks after Hoopfest, the Couch family contacted Lindsey and extended an invite to us to stay at their house for Hoopfest 2010. Humbled by the offer, we accepted and thus spent our 2010 weekend with this kind family. And wow, what a family they are. I’ve never met such thoughtful, generous, friendly people. Not only did they open up their home, but they had a room prepared for the each of us and dinner waiting on the table upon our arrival. Wow! I know I speak for the team when I say we can’t even express our gratitude for EVERYTHING they did for us all weekend. The Couch's really made us feel welcome and were a part of the formula that led to the Championship!
For readers unfamiliar with Hoopfest, here are a few quick facts: Hoopfest is the biggest 3 on 3 tournament in the world and this year, featured 6,990 teams, 27,465 players and 3,000+ volunteers. The Women’s Elite Division had 20 teams featuring former NCAA standouts like Jill Noe, Jillian Harmon, Sheila Lambert, Heather Bowman, Vivian Frieson, etc. It is a very competitive division full of emotion and physicality. There’s no mercy on the court as every point counts.
Decked out in our Nike sponsored gear and bright homemade jerseys (a tradition that will forever continue) we immediately made our mark. As soon as we took the pavement, TBA was all business. Our first game would be one of the most difficult of the tournament, as we matched up against Pure Advantage, a team headlined by former Arizona Sun Devil Jill Noe and Stanford Cardinal Jillian Harmon. The first game is always tough and the fact that we were facing some serious ballers made it a battle. However, we managed to get our first ‘W’ of 2010 and continued to ride the wave by winning our second game over a scrappy Northwest Nazarene team. Once taking care of business, the girls and I spent the rest of the afternoon cheering on friends and enjoying the sun. Later that evening it was off to a bbq followed by a short pub-crawl downtown Spokane.
With a fairly tame evening behind us, the following morning we were up bright and early for Championship Sunday. Shaking the sleep out of our eyes for the 8am tip, we made quick work of Hot Mess Crew – who's name is self-explanatory. Win under our belt, it was on to the semi-finals where we once again found ourselves facing Jill Noe and her Pure Advantage teammates. By losing their first game to us on Saturday, they were regulated to the losers bracket. Battling the heat and playing an excessive amount of games, PA was out for revenge. Seeing the thought of an upset in their eyes, TBA was in no joking mood. We were sharp, focused and stepped on the court with only one thing in mind. It worked and just like that we were punching our ticket to the Women’s Elite Division Finals for the 3rd time in 4 years.
Hours later, with the sun at it’s peak, TBA was on Nike Center Court for the division finals. After positive team talk and opponent strategy, we stepped on the court to face Acme Concrete Paving (Montana Alumi Hollie Tyler, Julie Deming, Laura Valley and Corrie Villegas) – the same team we lost to in the championship final last year. I’m not one to make excuses, but last summer we literally handed them the trophy. Going on a complete tear all weekend, we choked in the final. We couldn’t hit a shot and missed 8 free throws in a game to 20 (1’s and 2’s). It killed us. Even with all the mistakes we made, we almost won. TBA was up 17-15 before eventually falling 20-17.
This year we were determined not to let history repeat itself. With a comfortable lead most of the game, we hit a plateau at 14 and it was déjà-vu all over again. Making our FTs at an 80% clip all weekend, we went 0-for-7 in the final and almost gave away the game. Thankfully, our stellar defense and hustle plays saved us took us to the promised land. Driving from the left side on game point, Lindsey stopped on a dime, pulled up and hit her signature jumper. And guesssss what? TBA had captured the 2010 Hoopfest crown! Ballin’!
Click here to listen to Amy T’s second Hoopfest single, summarizing our Championship run.
Click here and here for TV highlights of our Hoopfest Championship Final.
Until next summer, I’m counting down the days…
Sidenote: It’s worth mentioning that TBA also took their talents to Los Angeles for the Nike 3 on 3 tournament, L.A. Live at Staples Center. Without much difficulty, we were able to bring home another title. It was a great weekend spent with old and new friends alike. Ironically, Stacey Dales, my childhood basketball hero (from Ontario, played for Oklahoma and in the WNBA) currently lives in LA and is an anchor and host for the NFL Network. She also happens to be friends with Lindsey. Imagine my surprise when Linds picked Amy and I up in Stacey Dales' car with Stacey in it. I couldn’t believe it! After getting over my initial shock of meeting her by staying mute for almost 10 minutes (those of you who know me know that I am never at a loss for words ☺), I finally relaxed and started to socialize over lunch. Stacey is super cool and offered me some great perspectives on life and a career in the media field. There’s nothing like meeting someone you idolize and realizing how down to earth and normal they are. She was a wealth of information and someone I am thankful I was able to connect with.
Sidenote 2: In addition to the two previous links provided for Amy's songs, click here and here to listen to the final 2 tracks of the TBA album - written about our weekend in Los Angeles for L.A. Live!