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June 26, 2013

Look back: Alumni game

Dawgs from the past and present came together on Sunday to a sold out Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle to play in front of a sold out crowd for the inaugural Husky men's basketball alumni game.

Starting off the day, Husky legends took the floor coached by even more legends. On team purple was Christian Welp, Flosi Sigurdsson, Kevin Vidato, Eldridge Recasner, Dion Brown, Bryant Boston, Lorenzo Romar, Doug Meekins, Ron Crowe, JD Taylor, Jan Wooten, Mark Sanford. George Irvine coached team purple. On team white was Paul Fortier, Phil Zevenbergen, Lars Hansen, Donald Watts, Jason Hamilton, Chris Walcott, Jason Tyrus, Chester Dorsey, Ray Price, David Wilson. Steve Hawes coached team white.

Romar, head coach for the Husky men's basketball team, came out big, hitting three three-point baskets in the first half. He ended with 11 points and was awarded Legends Game MVP, proving he may just know what he's doing out there.

There was no shortage of talent - and humor - in the legends game. In the first half, one of Hamilton's shoes broke, and two lucky fans came away with the legend's pair of shoes that he tossed up into the stands.

And then there was something that no one truly expected to see coming out of the legends game.

A two hand dunk to end the first half by Watts, causing fans and alumni to erupt.

The purple team ended up winning the legends game 27-22.

Then, the big show was geared up to start: the alumni game.

Before the game, a video played on the screen above the court, helping introduce the alumni.

As it came to an end, you could almost feel the anticipation in the room as goose bumps rose on fans' arms and everyone got to relive Isaiah Thomas's game-winning shot in overtime against Arizona in the 2011 Pac-10 championship game.

Silence filled the arena, and then…

The basket that will forever be referred to as "cold-blooded" caused the entire arena to erupt into cheers.

With the crowd jazzed, team purple was first up for introductions.

Team purple, coached by hall-of-famer and Seattle SuperSonics championship coach Lenny Wilkens, consisted of Thomas, Justin Dentmon, Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten, Jon Brockman, Darnell Gant, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday and Quincy Pondexter.

Ross, Thomas and Pondexter received some of the loudest cheers, but the player who Romar described earlier in the week as one of the most respected Huskies, Brockman, had fans going wild.

Next up, coached by hall-of-fame quarterback Warren Moon, was team white: Will Conroy, Brandon Roy, Tre Simmons, Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes, Bobby Jones, Mike Jensen, Jamaal Williams and Hans Gasser.

Roy got an incredible welcome from Husky Nation, but it was Robinson who was seemingly the guy no one could wait to see again.

As Robinson entered the floor, it could barely be heard what the announcer even said about him as fans made it obvious how important he was, and still is, to that program.

After everyone had made it to the floor, Romar took the chance to thank the fans for coming out for the inaugural event.

"We'll decide if we'll do it again, but you sure make a good case for it," Romar said.

Romar told the sold-out arena that he only expected about 5,000 to show up, and was equally happy that not only was that not the case, but he also received no hesitation from players to attend.

In fact, the dedication from players to make it to the event was overwhelming.

Bryan-Amaning flew in from London, Jones came in from Italy and Pondexter flew 20 hours from Singapore, getting back into Seattle at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, for the game.

No one's energy seemed to be lacking, though.

After introductions, both teams rallied in the middle of the court, jumping up and down on the big, purple "W," relishing in the moment of being back home.

For Dentmon, that was the best part of the day.

And then, finally, game time.

Thomas, who ended the game with 24, came out with the first points of the game.

Then, Hawes, who ended with 21, sunk a pair of free throws to get the white team on the board.

Game faces were on, but the players couldn't help smiling and messing around with each other every once in awhile back on court playing with and against former teammates and alum.

"Everybody was about business," Gant said. "Our team wanted to win, their team wanted to win. I knew we was going to win, but I'm not a talker, so I just play team ball and let it talk for itself."

Conroy, who had 16 points and 11 assists in the game, came out just as scrappy and energetic as ever.

Overall, there was some good teamwork, awareness and cohesiveness on the floor. It's almost like they'd played together before or something.

Dentmon, who finished with 11, was just excited to get everybody back so he could see how they'd get along.

"I just wanted to come back and play with everybody, just see how everybody would compete and see how everybody would gel with each other," Dentmon said. "Everybody's with their own programs, so everybody plays a different style of play, so I just wanted to see who was going to argue, who was going to talk trash out there, all that."

There was plenty of showing off and arguing with officials. The game itself was all in good fun, but it was obvious the guys had something to prove to each other at the same time.

Mainly, no one wanted to lose to each other. Equally talented, no team wanted to give the other bragging rights, something Gant pointed out after the game the post-2009 team now has until the next alumni game.

Going into the event, some of the guys even came up with a game plan.

"Our game plan was we're young, we still play the same way, our era, the way we play, we ran. I think we had the record for most 100-point games in a season. That's what we wanted to do," Bryan-Amaning said. "If we kept running, they were going to wear down."

But the pre-2009 team didn't wear down easily. The largest lead of the game was the post-2009 team by 11. At half, the score was 60-55 purple team. The game ended with the purple team (post-2009) winning 107-103.

After the game, Romar got on the microphone to announce the Alumni Game MVP award. As he began to announce the winner, Simmons, who finished with 23, stole the microphone and announced himself as the winner.

However, despite Simmons' effort, the award went to Thomas.

And with a big smile, Romar was able to make a quick jab at Simmons.

"Interesting. We couldn't get (him) to talk that much on defense here for two years," Romar said.

While things wrapped up at Alaska Airlines Arena, players stuck around to talk to anyone who attended.

The feeling of coming back home?

Well, that's a question players had a tough time answering.

"It was great," Gant said. "I don't know. Sometimes I'm at a loss for words for it, but I'm just happy to be here with everybody, and all the dudes I played with, all the older guys."

Dentmon also couldn't quite put into words what it felt like being back in Husky Nation.

To him, the homecoming was highly anticipated.

"A feeling that's just hard to explain," Dentmon said. "It's just like coming off an injury when you're anxious to play. That's how it was with this game. I was anxious to come play and see how everybody did."

Even the guys who were overseas were anxious to get back and play - many flew back to Seattle just for the event.

Bryan-Amaning, who talked to Romar fairly far in advance to work out the details of flying back from Europe, seemed almost humbled by the support shown at the arena on Sunday.

"You just see the great environment, the great atmosphere, the great support that the city of Seattle gives the Huskies," Bryan-Amaning said.

The Dawgs came to play that day, and no one could've left disappointed.

Quick hits:

Players wore the numbers they had while they were Huskies.

The three-point contest at halftime featured a fan winner, Dentmon, Pondexter, Robinson, Simmons and Appleby. Dentmon was the winner of the contest. Pondexter, Robinson and Simmons all tied for second.

Also at halftime, fans were chosen to come down and reenact Thomas's cold-blooded shot (complete with audio). No one could quite make the shot, except for the man himself. Thomas reenacted his own infamous shot, made it, and the crowd went absolutely wild. His reaction was almost the same as it was two years ago, too.

The dunk contest took place after the game. Judges of the contest were Aaron White, Slick Watts, Jamal Crawford, Jim Caviezel and Washington head football coach Steve Sarkisian, who received the loudest cheers from fans. The participants were Gant, Bryan-Amaning, Holiday and NBA dunk contest winner Ross. Gant and Ross made it to the final round, where Gant ended up winning. We highly recommend you get on YouTube and find videos of the dunks.

Here are some more quotes and notes from players after the event:

"I was excited to see everybody," Gant said. "All my friends, my coach's friends that I've been with, just to be here yesterday, it was amazing. I really couldn't believe I was back in Seattle."

Gant said he'll be back in Austria, but is hoping to get on a summer league team or NBA-D League team. Basically, he said he will do "whatever to get to the top."

When asked if he thought any of the guys had really improved since leaving the UW, Dentmon said he thought Wroten shot the ball pretty well.

Bryan-Amaning said he spent the past year playing in Serbia, and is now just waiting to play summer league.

"I always regard Seattle as my second home," Bryan-Amaning said. "Got so many people looking out for me…letting me know that they've been watching out for me while I'm overseas."

"It's exciting. It's just very, very exciting," Bryan-Amaning said. "I Tweeted this morning, 'I'm excited to come back,' and as soon as I wrote it, I got a re-Tweet from Darnell (Gant), re-Tweet from Justin (Dentmon), 'I can't wait to come back and see you guys'. It's too bad it only lasts a day, I wish it could last longer, but it's just fun to be here."

"It's great. The fans always have you get excited," Bryan-Amaning said. "Just brings back memories from when I was a Dawg."

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