'It's not just a basketball tournament to us": Missing Hoopla due to COVID hit longtime competitors hard

Stories of tradition, camaraderie, friendship and family surrounding Hoopla are almost too numerous to tell.

Oregon’s largest 3x3 basketball tournament, played in the streets surrounding the Oregon state Capitol, brings thousands together each and every year – for countless reasons, the love of basketball being forefront but also for myriad others that often go much deeper.

For Team Sparkle and Clean, Hoopla has been a tradition that’s brought together a group of family and friends for over a decade. Each and every year, its players have converged from locations up and down the West Coast to participate in not just a basketball tournament but a long, mid-summer weekend that has spawned memories for a lifetime.

The bond of the four men who make up Sparkle and Clean was also put in sharp perspective a year ago when Hoopla was forced to cancel its yearly tournament because of COVID-19 restrictions – something the entire Hoopla community was forced to cope with. Now, with Hoopla’s return, the restoration of that community is one reason, among many, to celebrate.

“On my side of the family, it’s kind of bigger than Christmas,” Jarrod Sumpter, the catalyst behind Team Sparkle and Clean, recently told Hoopla going into his squad’s 12th straight tournament (minus last year’s hiatus) together.

Comprised of Sumpter, who lives in Denver, Adrian Cendoya of Seattle, Roche Cendoya of Los Angeles, and Carlos Suarez of Portland, Sparkle and Clean first played in Hoopla 12 years ago. It all came to be when Sumpter, living in Seattle at the time, heard about the tournament and told his close friend Adrian Cendoya.

They played the first year as the Bayside Tigers.

“We were just testing it out to see how fun it was,” Sumpter said.

Something must have left an imprint because they returned for another year, this time under the name Gang Green. After that first season, Sumpter’s uncle, Jim Palmer, the owner of Sparkle and Clean Janitorial in Salem, had the group and other friends and family over for a BBQ after the first day of competition.

That not only became part of the tradition but also exploded into an annual event that draws sometimes in the 100s. Palmer also decided to sponsor Sumpter’s team after their second year participating.

“When the date comes around, everyone looks forward to it,” Palmer said.” For Carla and I (his wife), those guys are almost like our kids... this is the time of year we get to see you. And it was really somber not being able to see everybody together. So this year, it’s going to be special. We’re going to look forward to having everyone here.”

A BBQ turned blow-out party, the competition in Hoopla, the brotherhood, it all became part of the
draw for four out-of-towners to a streetball tournament in the middle of downtown Salem.

“I still remember the very first BBQ. Just seeing how much it’s grown and how much we’ve come
together and changed and life has changed has been really cool,” Adrian Cendoya said. “We keep
spreading farther and farther apart, but Hoopla brings us together.”

It made such an impact on the team that Sumpter put together a video documentary two years ago highlighting their 10-year anniversary of playing in Hoopla.

“It’s been a really cool experience for all of us,” he said. “It’s not just a basketball tournament to us
anymore.”

But that’s not the only reason why Sparkle and Clean make the effort to include Hoopla on their
calendars every year. The growth of the tournament year in and year out, its organization, increased level of competition while also maintaining sportsmanship and its emphasis on making it an inclusive, family-orientated event are other reasons why they never miss out on Hoopla.

“This tournament is just way more wholesome, way more family orientated, kids everywhere, dogs
everywhere; it’s just a good time, and it’s a completely different environment than you get in other
tournaments,” Roche Cendoya said. “It’s a totally different tournament.”

Sumpter said everything from the referees to improvements made to the street surfaces that house the courts to the volunteers all set Hoopla apart.

“To be honest, the way the tournament is put together is impressive to us,” Sumpter said. “Adrian and I have played in other tournaments, and not to throw them under the bus, but it’s just not the same. We enjoy the people, everybody that gets together for the tournament, honestly … it just seems like it keeps getting better and better.”

The four teammates and all those surrounding them plan on making Hoopla XXII extra special this year – especially with the perspective gained after losing it for a year.

“The fact that we couldn’t do it, and now this year it’s back, I’m just excited to get there and get
together with the guys and go out and compete,” Suarez said. “Just enjoy friends, family and basketball, just the whole weekend.”

Hoopla XXII will be played the weekend of Aug. 7-8, 2021, in the streets surrounding the Oregon state Capitol building in Salem, with events beginning Thursday, Aug. 5. 

About Hoopla
Believed to be the second largest tournament of its kind in the world, Hoopla features roughly 1,000+ teams, 4,500 participants, 1,000+ volunteers, and thousands of spectators at one of the best imaginable venues – in the shadows of the Oregon State Capitol Building on Court, State and surrounding streets in downtown Salem. Along with the Hoopla-affiliated Cherryfest NW and The Salem Winter Brewfest, the non-profit Hoopla Association has generated more than $750,000 for local organizations and causes since it was founded in 1999.

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