Hoop Season 

Idaho Stampede prepares to take the court

By November, I am sick of pretending to like football. Enough with the stadium wave and all those crazy jaywalking tailgaters. Once the weather turns cold enough to require eight layers just to comfortably watch some sport, all I want is the sweet sound of sneakers squeaking on the hard wood. It's basketball season, by Jove, so wipe off those snotcicles and let's take the fanfare inside.

The Idaho Stampede is real basketball (well CBA, which is sort of like NBA, but not). I mean, I love to watch a rousing game of HORSE, but unlike most other hoops in this town, Stampede dudes can actually dunk a ball.

And this season, the Stampede has many cool happenings planned to make this coming winter fresher and more fun than seasons past. From new half-time entertainment acts to new names on the team roster, the Stampede is facing a new season ready to take on all new challenges. Take their biggest change, for example: the recent move from their old home at the Idaho Center in Nampa to the newly renamed Qwest Arena here in Boise.

"This is not what we're used to at this level," Head Coach Joe Wolf told BW over the phone. "It's exciting for us to play in the Qwest Arena. The fans will enjoy being closer to the action."

Wolf is an 11-year NBA veteran, who, once upon a time, was a Tar Heel, twirling a ball on his finger under legendary North Carolina head coach Dean Smith. He was named as the Stampede's fifth head coach in 2004 and has spent the last year and a half preparing the team for and leading them to victories.

Wolf has a few sparkly expectations up his sleeve for the season. "It's likely we'll have a chance with Ricky Sanchez," he says of the teenage hotshot picked for the Denver Nuggets. "He was drafted in the second round and I don't think they are going to keep him."

Keep your eyes peeled for a Sanchez sighting in the next few weeks. Wolf says he expects his roster to grow this week but he'll cut it down and have the official lineup on November 16, which is just in time for the first game on November 18 in Yakima, Washington. The first home game in the new arena, also against the Yakima Sun Kings, is the following day, November 19.

I know what you're thinking: This is a town of non-stop fun and entertainment, and one night you will be overwhelmed with options and you won't be able to decide which event to attend. So let the Stampede's half-time magic be the deciding factor. Sure, you're dying to find out about those numbers on Lost, or who is stuck in the basement on Desperate Housewives, but make the big move from the couch to your computer and check out the entertainment schedule on the Stampede's Web site, for it serves up some awesome offerings that will enhance your complete Stampede adventure.

"We kind of take it beyond basketball, its overall entertainment," says Vince Hordemann, the Stampede's publicity and media director. It's Hordemann's first year on the job, but he assures that the fun is unbeatable. "It's a really exciting lineup; we have a contortionist, we have magicians, we have dancers." True, on the entertainment schedule, you'll find some surprising entertainment lined up, including appearances by the world-famous Laker Girls.

The Stampede also has the equally world-famous RubberBoy scheduled for opening night. OK, maybe he's not world famous, but he's World Wide Web famous. According to his Web site, he's "an incredible contortionist who will have your sides splitting in laughter." Sounds flexibly fantastic.

With this winter chill settling in, it is nice to also remember the warm fuzzies: The Stampede's mission is to keep a strong bond with the Treasure Valley, particularly the youth in the valley, and to enrich the lives of members of the community.

"We do a lot with the youth. There's a lot for everybody, a lot for family, for basketball fans. It's positive," explains Hordemann. Of course it's positive, man. Basketball season is the best!

And Wolf, like a lot of the others who are so over the "football craze of fall '05," is clearly pumped up about what's in the Stampede's future. "On the court, we'll be the high-paced team we were last year," Wolf says confidently. "But I'm just excited because it's another basketball season!"

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