SEATTLE TIMES: SPENCER HAWES AMONG PROS TO PLAY IN JULY EXHIBITION AT KEY ARENA

Seattle Times staff reporter

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DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Former Washington standout Isaiah Thomas shows off his moves during a photo shoot for the H206 Charity Classic.

Standing courtside in a near-empty KeyArena, Spencer Hawes pointed to the stands where he fell in love with basketball.

“Some of my fondest memories as a kid were coming down here with my dad, going to Dick’s and then going to a Sonics game,” said the former Washington Husky and Seattle Prep standout Thursday afternoon. “For me that really instilled the love of the game. It was something tangible.

“There’s something different when you’re at a game. You really feel like, ‘I can do that one day.’ That’s when it clicked for me, when I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.”

Hawes, a 7-foot-1 center for the Philadelphia 76ers, is literally one of the biggest Sonics fans around.

So when he was asked to join other NBA players in a summer basketball game to generate funds for a local youth program and raise awareness of Seattle’s three-year NBA drought, he jumped at the opportunity.

“We have an opportunity to give people what they’ve been missing,” Hawes said. “Maybe create a little buzz, get a little chatter going, and show people outside of Seattle the support the city still has for professional basketball and how great the fans are.”

Seattle-area basketball stars Brandon Roy, Aaron Brooks, Martell Webster, Isaiah Thomas, Michael Dickerson and Hawes have committed to play in the H206 Charity Basketball Classic, an NBA-sanctioned exhibition game at 3:30 p.m. July 23 at KeyArena.

Tickets go on sale June 20 at Ticketmaster, with tickets ranging from $15 for upper-bowl seats to $30 for the lower bowl. Discount tickets will also be available at the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club.

The game is the brainchild of Tavio Hobson, the executive director of A Plus Youth Program. In conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club, the program combines basketball training, academic tutoring and civic workshops for minors.

“We want to do community events with people that not only support A Plus, but people that support the Seattle basketball community,” Hobson said. “The idea has been bounced around for over a year, and we thought we had the infrastructure in place to pull something like this off.”

Hobson contacted Dumi Maraire, co-organizer of the Adonai Hood Classic, a summer basketball game that has attracted the area’s top basketball players in recent years.

Maraire’s experience has helped in this new venture, but the games share few similarities.

“You have elements that are the same because these players are from Seattle,” he said. “So that aspect will be there, but this is like 100 times bigger than the Adonai Hood Classic.”

Hobson and Maraire secured NBA certification, raised the $50,000 deposit required by the league and cleared several hurdles that caused similar projects in the past to stumble.

Hobson admits plenty of work still remains. He plans to secure more player commitments, which has proved to be difficult because of the expected NBA lockout.

He’s also working to build interest over the next few weeks and hopes for a sellout.

“We want to see a Seattle-based team against players from around the NBA,” Hobson said. “We want to see guys that are homebred or have significant Seattle connections, like the UW guys, play against other guys from around the league.

“We want fans to be able to see exciting professional men’s basketball.”

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com