Sport Management Program Hosts Italian Teams for Hoopfest 2024

A Spokane street with people playing basketball on them
Hoopfest takes over downtown Spokane every June. Photo courtesy of Hoopfest

June 05, 2024
Dan Nailen | Gonzaga University News Service

It’s not too difficult to make the case Spokane is one of the most basketball-crazed cities in the United States. Between the powerhouse men’s and women’s basketball teams at Gonzaga taking the spotlight each winter, and the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament, Hoopfest, taking over downtown Spokane each summer, the Inland Northwest is a hotbed of hoops.

You can say the same about Pistoia, Italy, a town in Tuscany near Gonzaga University’s Florence campus with a deep history of passionate fans and success on the court that has made Pistoia’s reputation throughout Italy as being a “basketball town.”

This summer, a partnership between Gonzaga’s Kinesiology and Sport Management department and professional club Pistoia Basket 2000 will bring 11 Italian teen basketball players to compete in Hoopfest June 29-30. It is the first time Italy will be represented on the Hoopfest courts.

The Italian players, four women and seven men between 14-16 years old, will be joined by a delegation from Pistoia Basket 2000, and represent men’s and women’s junior programs of Pistoia, as well as a junior men’s team from fellow Italian club DLF Udine Basket. The players will stay with host families from the Gonzaga community, tour GU’s athletic facilities and various cultural and historic sites in the Spokane area, and ultimately take to the street courts in the annual celebration that is Hoopfest.

“Being able to host a basketball delegation from Italy here in Spokane is a dream come true for our Gonzaga Sport Management students and the GU community at large,” says Ryan Turcott, associate professor of Kinesiology and Sport Management and MA Sports Administration program director. “Since our students and faculty visited Pistoia Basket in July of 2023, we have continued to build our partnership and find opportunities to develop cross-cultural exchanges, diplomacy, and intercultural management through sport.”

“Gonzaga and Spokane are known for basketball around the world, and there’s no better event to host a group of Italian basketball players and coaches than Hoopfest.”

“We will have days ahead of us full of many sporting activities, but not only that,” said Cristiano Biagini, Pistoia’s youth program coordinator at a press conference in Italy announcing the Hoopfest trip. “The kids will live this experience and enrich themselves on a human level. And this brings our world closer to that of Gonzaga, the university with which we have formed this strong bond.”

The Pistoia Basket visit for Hoopfest further strengthens the relationship between the club and Gonzaga that launched in 2023. Gonzaga students serve internships in Tuscany, working with the team in areas including hospitality, corporate sponsorships, merchandise development, social media, ticketing sales strategies and fan engagement. In exchange for their work, the GU students gain an understanding of the inner workings of a professional sports franchise on the international stage.

“Gaining exposure of multicultural and multilingual groups through basketball is what this partnership is all about,” Turcott says. “At Gonzaga, we fully believe that sport is a universal language that can be used to develop deeper friendship and understanding with people across the world. These encounters will help our students and the Italian players strengthen their interpersonal skills, cross-cultural awareness and teamwork abilities.”

Learn about Gonzaga's partnership with Pistoia Basket 2000