Basketball returned to the Dee Events Center for one night as the venue hosted the reunion of Weber State basketball legends. The former Wildcats returned to the hardwood to face off in the Alumni Game. The game was hosted by NBA All-Star and former WSU Wildcat Damian Lillard. This is the third time this event has taken place but the first time fans finally got to see Lillard in action since his days in Ogden.
Not only were fans able to watch the return of Dame to the Dee, but they held autographs an hour before tip-off to give fans a chance to interact with not only Lillard but the current Wildcats.
As the minutes until game time inched closer, the arena began to fill with not only purple, but with red and black as fans donned their Portland Trailblazer jerseys that read Lillard’s name across the back.
Despite all of the Lillard jerseys in the stands, he felt that they showed up for the program rather than him.
“Obviously me playing here and being an NBA player, people are going to show up for that, but I think because of the weight of the program and the way things have always been … it’s a family environment,” Lillard said.
The Alumni tipped off. The excitement was in the air, and it did not take long for Lillard to make his impact. After missing his first couple attempts, Lillard, who was representing the white jersey team, found his zone and began to pour it on team purple as he scorched them for 24 points and seven from beyond the arc while playing with minimal effort to avoid any potential injuries or accidents.
Lillard’s team was led by Head Coach Randy Rahe, who is entering his 13 season and is the Big Sky conference’s all-time leader in wins. Coach Rahe has been awarded Coach of the Year four times, which is a Big Sky record. His wife, Laura Rahe, was one of the referees for the game. She is an official in the West Coast, Mountain West and WAC conferences.
Before the alumni game began, the former Wildcats competed in a shooting stars contest and a three-point shootout.
The shooting stars contest can be found during the NBA’s all-star weekend. It is a team of three players, and they have to make a lay-up, free throw and a three-pointer before attempting to knock down half-court shots. The team led by Lillard were the victors as they made quick work of their competition.
The three-point shootout did not feature Lillard and was won by Ryan Richardson, who graduated from WSU in 2018 after spending four years with the program. His highest score was 18 after catching fire towards the end of his round.
Lillard is coming off his best season, where he averaged 26 points per game, shocked the world with a 37-foot jumper to end the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season, helped guide the Blazers to the Western Conference Finals and signed a $190 million contract extension to keep him in Portland.
After the alumni game, Lillard reflected on what it was like being back.
“Having the crowd cheering and getting back out there with my teammates, it was just a different experience,” Lillard said.