Indiana Basketball Season Opens With Hoosier Hysteria
Oct. 14, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana's men's and women's basketball teams kicked off the 2006-07 season in style, hosting more than 14,000 fans at Hoosier Hysteria on Branch McCracken Court at Assembly Hall on Oct. 13.
The event marks the beginning of another season of Hoosier basketball, and fans, players and coaches alike are excited about getting things started. With Hoosier Hysteria serving as a spectator event, the real practices will get underway on Oct. 14.
"I'm anxious to start practice tomorrow," men's head coach Kelvin Sampson said. "When your season ends the previous year, you are at such a loss because you don't have a game to get ready for. Our existence is our next game. That's why the finality of your last game is always a shock. We have a game Nov. 5, and we'll start preparing for our November games. I'm anxious to get started. Really excited about this team. I'm pleased with the way they've attacked preseason conditioning. These kids have worked hard, and they are going to work a whole lot harder starting tomorrow."
"It's always good to have a little fun before the practicing starts," junior forward D.J. White said. "After four weeks of conditioning, this is the night we have been waiting for. Tomorrow, we are getting back to business. It's great for the fans to see us, and it's great for us to show off what we have been working on."
The evening's festivities kicked off with an autograph session with both the men's and women's teams at 9 p.m., with fans literally running up to the autograph tables. The teams were broken up into four groups stationed at each corner of the arena, with the players signing until 10 p.m.
While the players and coaches spoke to the media after the autograph session, the IU pep band and cheerleaders entertained the crowd.
At 10:50 p.m., the Hoosier faithful roared to life, as the lights in Assembly Hall went down and the women's team was introduced. New head coach Felisha Leggette-Jack then spoke briefly with the crowd, followed by the team running through layup and shooting drills.
After that came the three-point contest, with junior Nikki Smith posting 15 in the first round and Carrie Smith and Jamie Braun each posting eight. Braun drained another eight threes in the tiebreaker to advance to meet Nikki Smith in the finals.
Braun opened up with 11 in the championship round to put the pressure on Smith, but Smith answered with 14 to walk away with the three-point crown.
"For our team, playing in front of a big crowd and showcasing ourselves to the crowd, its really important to us," Smith said. "It gets our name out there, and having as many fans come and cheer for us as possible - I think its great."
Leggette-Jack said she was also thrilled by the crowd's presence and the beginning of her first season in Cream and Crimson.
"I'm excited to get started," she said. "What a way to get started. I am pumped up for the players. When I saw all of the fans, I got pumped up. When I'm in this building alone, I get pumped up."
At 11:23 the floor went dark again, and master of ceremonies Jeremy Gray started the one-minute countdown before the men's team was set to appear. The Hoosiers were introduced one-by-one, with Sampson emerging to the crowd chanting his name.
After a brief speech from Sampson and a dancing display by both the men's and women's teams and the cheerleaders, the men's team went through a few drills.
Finally, the men's team got down to what the crowd was there to see - the three-point and dunk contests.
Freshman Armon Bassett drained 15 in the opening round, while senior Errek Suhr netted 13 to set up a finals clash. Bassett hit 10 to lead off the championship round, but Suhr responded with 15 makes to take home the three-point title.
Next came the highly anticipated dunk contest, with Indiana president Dr. Adam Herbert, Leggette-Jack and former Hoosier player Kyle Hornsby serving as judges.
Rod Wilmont turned in a perfect score of 30 with his first dunk, in which he lobbed the ball to himself, cocked it down to his hips, then finished with a two-handed jam. Xavier Keeling posted 28 points on his second dunk, a one-handed stuff from behind the endline, to set the finals field.
After Keeling missed his first attempt in the finals, Sampson declared Wilmont the winner by default, then urged White to come out and show the crowd his dunking prowess. White obliged, throwing down a two-handed jam off a lob from Earl Calloway, but it was A.J. Ratliff who stole the show.
Ratliff started at midcourt and had White stand a few feet in front of the basket. Thinking bigger, Ratliff called upon Calloway to join White, then added Keeling to the huddle. With the crowd buzzing in anticipation, Ratliff galloped toward the basket and easily cleared the trio, finishing with a one-handed stuff to bring the Assembly Hall crowd to its feet.
The evening concluded with a 10-minute scrimmage, with Ben Allen, Lance Stemler, Mike White, Calloway and Suhr suiting up for the White team and Bassett, White, Wilmont, Keeling and Joey Shaw donning the Crimson.
White got the scoring started at the 8:04 mark, taking a Shaw pass and slamming it home to give the Crimson a 2-0 lead. Calloway would tie the contest with a layup, and after the two sides traded a pair of buckets each to make it 6-6, Bassett put the Crimson ahead to stay with a three-pointer from just left of the top of the key. A Shaw layup would push the lead to 11-6 before the White team closed the contest on a 7-4 run, but the comeback fell short as the Crimson won, 15-13.
Overall, Sampson is pleased with where his team is, but knows there is always room for improvement.
"I would say that we're better than we were, but nowhere close to where we need to be," he said. "But I would say that about every team that I've had, this early. Kids usually don't know what they are capable of doing."
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