TUCSON, Ariz. ?- The University of Arizona men’s basketball team tipped off the 2005-06 season with its first public appearance of the year in front of 9,890 hoop-crazed fans who attended McKale Madness.
The night of festivities began with the women’s volleyball team sweeping California in three games before the basketball team took center stage.
Fans were treated to some cheap entertainment as the players were introduced individually, each putting on a little dance for the crowd. Seniors Hassan Adams, Chris Rodgers and Isaiah Fox made a grand entrance as each rode down the emergency ramp in a yellow Hummer before taking the court.
“As you can see, we have our hands full with a bunch of characters,” said head coach Lute Olson with a smile as he addressed the crowd following introductions. “But they can play some pretty good basketball, too.”
John Salley, a co-host on Fox Sports Net’s “Best Damn Sports Show Period”, hosted the event. Salley also participated as a judge in the slam-dunk contest, which featured Adams and freshman Fendi Onobun.
Adams and Onobun each advanced through the first round, and then were asked to imitate a dunk shown on the video-display boards. Onobun successfully completed a two-hand reverse dunk first made by former Wildcat Andre Iguodala while at Arizona. Adams then threw down a one-hand windmill jam reminiscent of Richard Jefferson’s dunks shown from his playing days in a Wildcat uniform. Adams then won the contest in the final round as he slammed home a dunk after beating Salley off the dribble one-on-one.
Following the dunk contest, the players then split into two teams and participated in a 20-minute intrasquad scrimmage. Wearing the red jerseys were returners Daniel Dillon, Mohamed Tangara, Bret Brielmeier and freshmen J.P. Prince, Fendi Onobun, Marcus Williams and David Bagga. On the Blue Team were veterans Hassan Adams, Kirk Walters, Ivan Radenovic, Isaiah Fox, Mustafa Shakur and Jesus Verdejo.
The underclassmen got off to a quick start to lead 7-4 behind the shooting of Dillon and Williams. The Blue Team answered with a Verdejo lob pass to Adams for an easy dunk.
Later on, Prince extended the Red Team’s lead to four, 19-15, as he hit a long three pointer. Williams then found his stroke as he nailed a trey en route to a game-high 18 points, and the veterans were down 28-25.
Verdejo then found the hot hand to pace the Blue team with 15 points. After a Shakur steal, Fox controlled the ball in the front court and left a behind-the-back pass for Verdejo whose dunk gave the Blue Team a 37-34 lead. Verdejo then sealed the game with a three-pointer with 40-seconds remaining as the Blue Team went on to win by a final score of 52-45.
Shakur chipped in 15 points for the Blue Team, while teammate Adams added 10. Dillon also reached double digits for the Red Team with 10.
Olson was pleased with the turnout of the crowd and the effort of his players, but made it clear that tomorrow’s practice would be a little more intense.
“They had a lot of fun tonight. That’s the purpose of Midnight Madness. It’s not very serious. That will change tomorrow.”