Hoopla homecoming for former Salem basketball stars about community, camaraderie
It’s a tricky concept, home. It’s easy to define, except when it isn’t.
Is it where you’re born? Or where you live now? Is it a place you visit simply because you’re drawn there? Is it someplace created in your imagination?
We think the concept of home can be used with any one, or all, of those descriptions. We also believe Hoopla can be the vehicle for that.
Take Mike McShane and Thalo Green, for example.
Both former stars on South Salem High School’s 1996 boys basketball state championship team who each went on to play Division I college basketball and then professionally abroad, McShane and Green are returning to Salem this summer to play in Hoopla for the first time.
It may be the first time playing in Oregon’s largest 3x3 basketball tournament for both of them, but it's someplace they’ve both called home over the years. It’s an event that has been a part of their lives – and close to their hearts – since its inception in 1999, right around the time both of them were at the peak of their college playing careers.
“I’ve always been watching it from afar, seeing the atmosphere through people’s photos or videos,” Green told Hoopla ahead of Hoopla XXIII to be played July 12-17. “It’s just knowing how big a game basketball is in this community, and just to see those types of events come together, bringing friends and family of all ages.”
Green may be back home for the summer, but one would be hard pressed to find someone else who will have traveled farther to play in this year’s tournament. He lives in Australia now, where after a successful and lengthy professional career, Green has a career as a teacher, an Australian wife and family – not to mention the hints of an Australian accent.
“The special thing about Hoopla, this year especially for me, is I finally get to play,” Green said. “I’ve been out of the country the past few years and always just seemed to miss it by a week or two.”
The homecoming for McShane is a permanent one.
He’s been a bit of a globetrotter himself, playing professionally in China and with Green in Australia before settling in Tulsa, Okla., for the past eight years where he worked as a teacher while also starting a family (he has two girls). He has now returned to the Salem area, settling in Keizer, where he’ll teach wellness and PE and serve as McNary High School’s head girls basketball coach this upcoming season.
“We’ve always talked about playing in Hoopla, and talked about playing in it once we were over 40,” McShane said of he and his best friend Green.
It’s the community aspect of Hoopla that has drawn them in, even before they were participants. It has felt like home to them both – a part of what makes Salem such a great place.
“I think it’s really cool that it’s an annual local event; it’s almost like a high school reunion every year,” he said. “Even if you’re not playing and you’re walking the streets of Hoopla, you’re bound to run into someone that you haven’t seen in a long time and have that chance to reconnect, which is really cool.”
As far as the competitive aspect, well, both McShane nor Green know their days of playing Pac-10 and professional-level hoops are behind them but what isn’t is their competitive natures. They opted against the top division this year for the 40-and-over bracket, but don’t expect them to take it easy.
“I think the main thing for us is we just want to go out there and have fun, and not get hurt, leave with all of our Achilles and knees still intact,” he said. “I’m sure though once we get going those competitive juices are going to start flowing and our nature is going to surface, and if it’s a close game we’re going to be battling.”
Outside of the community is the kind of showcase for the game of basketball Hoopla provides. Both Green and McShane said they expect playing in the event will bring back memories of getting together with a few buddies and throwing together a pickup game.
It’s basketball at its purest form.
“To see that next generation of little hoopers just walking around absorbing the game, absorbing the culture of basketball, that's really one of the things that makes this game so special,” Green said.
Said McShane: “Hoopla is kind of ahead of the curve there. It’s a great way to learn the game and break the game down to the game within the game. Also, it's a more fun way to play the game because you’re getting more touches.”
McShane and Green will be joined by former ‘96 South Salem teammates Geoff Rice and Jeff Harrison and Todd Meyerding, who played on South Medford’s third-place team that same year. So, look for them out on the streets surrounding the Oregon Capitol this Hoopla weekend – and welcome them home.
“It’s really cool to just go outside, round up your friends... Hoopla and 3 and 3 is really just an opportunity to get outside and play the great game of basketball,” McShane said. “That camaraderie is really cool.”