SPOKANE, Wash. — Former Gonzaga star Kelly Olynyk is back in Spokane for Hoopfest and it's obvious he still feels a strong connection to the area. 

"When I talk to guys in the NBA and they ask about Gonzaga, ask me about Spokane, I tell them it's a basketball mecca," said Olynyk at Hoopfest Center Court on Thursday. 

The Miami forward was at the epicenter of it all ahead of Hoopfest weekend.

"I never played in it, but just walking around, seeing the passion and the energy for the game of basketball, all the streets blocked off, always nice weather," said Olynyk reflecting on his Hoopfest memories. "Just beautiful days in the Pacific Northwest in Spokane with the game of basketball all around you."

That's obviously something Kelly enjoys, as he is heading into his seventh season in the NBA as a forward for the Miami Heat. 

"It's good. It's fun. Miami is an awesome place to play. Great organization. Just trying to get better every single day," Olynyk said.

But he wouldn't be there if Gonzaga didn't take a chance on the Canadian years ago. 

The school has definitely upped their reputation around the NBA in recent years, according to Olynyk.

"It's well-respected. They know it's just a solid run program that turns out teams every single year. Going to the tournament every single year," Olynyk said.

"Everybody has a story of playing Gonzaga, whether it's an exhibition game or a tournament game or whatever. They just talk about how well coached and well trained they all are and how everybody just comes to play, so it's pretty cool," he added. 

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