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29 October 2007

Crowds roar at Hoops Mania (full recap)

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
10/29/2007 02:25:00 AM
CNN.com-style "story highlights":
  • Hoops Mania now extremely popular.

  • Video messages from Vitale, ex-VU-stars thrill crowd.

  • Men's basketball team performs dance numbers.

  • Million-dollar prize nigh impossible to win.

  • Blue-White scrimmage a serious affair; full-contact hits and tenacious defense.

  • Corey Fisher: Kyle Lowry with a better shot?

  • Rapper "Mims" explains why he is hot.

  • Bill Raftery: "I regret nothing" about 2005 UNC-game broadcast (A-Ray travel call).

The annual "Hoops Mania" pep rally for Villanova basketball has come a long way in just a few years. Though five years ago it was a modest affair in the Jake Nevin Field House, the event now regularly fills the 6,500-seat Pavilion.

This year's revival of the growing tradition did not disappoint; the packed house was treated to a cavalcade of celebrity guests, dramatic highlight reels, and valuable prize giveaways, all before the main event: the Blue vs. White intra-squad scrimmage.

Anticipating something special after last year's surprise performance by the rapper 50-Cent, students lined up in steady rain three hours before the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start time. By the time doors opened at 6:30, the line had stretched from the Pavilion's entrance at the nadir of Ithan Avenue all the way up the hill, nearly to the Lancaster Avenue intersection.

When doors opened, the student-section in the South stands quickly spilled over with enthusiastic fans, and students streamed into the East and West chair-back seats. The North stands were closed, replaced by a giant projection video screen.

Several Villanova recruits were in attendance. I saw Dexter Strickland sitting a few rows behind me, and there were rumors that mega-recruit Tyreke Evans was also in the building.

Festivities got underway with a three-point contest between two teams each made up of one men's basketball player and one women's player. In the contest, Shane Clark shot 5 of 13, and Dwayne Anderson was 6 of 14 from behind the arc.

Following the three-point contest was a long, detailed video message from Dick Vitale played on the giant video screen. An amazing highlight reel was also shown, splicing scenes from the previous season with Rocky-like montage shots of the Wildcats working out. The entire video was set to Kanye West's "Stronger," which was played at four different points in the evening, incidentally.

The video also featured cameo messages by various Villanova athletics celebrities, including Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, Ed Pinckney, and Brian Westbrook.

Next came the official introduction of the the team. By my ear, the loudest cheers were for Scottie Reynolds and Jay Wright, but each player received an enthusiastic ovation. The players made their way down the South stands and into a line near center-court.

Once the entire team had been introduced, the sound system started laying down some funky beats, and the entire basketball team began rhythmically gyrating in a manner reminiscent of the performance by the Villanova Dance Team just minutes earlier.

The team's performance, which lasted several songs, was one of the more disturbing things I've ever seen; perhaps befitting a night that would end for many with Halloween parties was the eerily frightening image of Andrew Ott shaking his pelvis suggestively in time with song.

Nevertheless, the dance performance was a hit with the students, and the proper dance team soon joined the players for the final song.

Throughout the event, many prizes were given away in various familiar "timeout contests," such as Villanova's takes on the Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal. One student won a guaranteed seat at every home game this year; another won tickets to the Eagles-Cowboys football showdown next week at Lincoln Financial Field.

The biggest prize of the night, however, was $1 million cash. The randomly selected student had to perform a feat that I would wager no one in the arena that night could come close to achieving: to win the million dollars, he had to make 5 three-point baskets in under 25 seconds, including at least 1 three pointer from each baseline and 1 at the top of the key. Furthermore, only ten shots could be attempted in total.

My quick analysis told me that this was basically an impossible contest. Earlier in the night, sharpshooters Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark made just 6 and 5 three-pointers, respectively, in more than twice the allotted time (60 seconds) and in more than the limit of 10 shots. What chance did this poor student have to thoroughly outperform Division-One athletes? Indeed, I would have only given Scottie Reynolds, perhaps the best three-point shooter in the Big East, a 1 in 20 chance of successfully completing the challenge.

Needless to say, the student failed to win the million, and in fact did not make a single three-point shot in the 25 seconds, as was to be expected. I must say that contest's rules seemed a little unfair to me considering how heavily the million-dollar contest had been promoted prior to the event. To be fair, the contestant was awarded an iPod Touch for his troubles.

Finally, it was time for the main event. But before the Blue-White scrimmage got underway, Jay Wright introduced the many "coaches" for the Blue and White teams, including the former Villanova forward Marcus "Big Dawg" Austin, the Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, and the National League MVP candidate Jimmy Rollins. The loudest cheers of the entire night, however, were reserved for Curtis Sumpter, who returned to the Pavilion to coach in the scrimmage.

For the scrimmage, the team was divided into two factions of roughly equal strength.

The White team featured guards Corey Fisher and Reggie Redding, forwards Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham, and center Casiem Drummond. A new walk-on by the name of "Russell" wore the #44 jersey for the White team as well, but he has not yet been added to the official Villanova roster Web page.

The Blue team included guards Scottie Reynolds, Malcolm Grant, Jason Colenda and Corey Stokes; and forwards Shane Clark, Antonio Pena and Andrew Ott. Junior forward Frank Tchuisi was out with an arm injury.

Though past scrimmages at Hoops Mania have been alley-oop-fueled jam fests with defense taking a back seat, that was not the case at the Pavilion Friday. The two sides played a serious brand of basketball despite the four 4-minute quarters with a running clock.

Tough defense was played, and a few hard fouls were committed. The White team jumped out to an early lead and never relented, winning by a final score of 28-19.

Several players performed well in the scrimmage, including Dante Cunningham, who looked like a monster in the paint, and Scottie Reynolds, who was the clear leader on the court. Reggie Redding showed some improvement in his offensive game, and Dwayne Anderson impressed the fans and announcers Bill Raftery and Jay Wright with his domination of the glass.

By far the most impressive show, however, was put on by the freshman Corey Fisher, who looked like he was playing at a different speed than everyone else. Fisher drained a pair of threes and dished out several pretty assists. He demonstrated a ridiculous handle, and played lock-down defense on fellow freshman PG Malcolm Grant, who struggled.

Though he was running circles around his teammates, Fisher was also in perfect control for much of the scrimmage. On one broken play with the shot-clock winding down, Fisher rescued a loose ball directed to his general direction, quickly drove to the rack, and dished off to Dante Cunningham for a slam that brought down the house.

Fisher's all-out hustle and ridiculously quick first step immediately reminded me of Kyle Lowry. The one major difference between the two at this stage of development may be the jump shot: Fisher is a significantly better shooter than Lowry, who I consider to be the most talented guard in Villanova history. Whether Fisher's game will live up to Lowry's lofty standards remains to be seen, but it certainly is off to a good start.

After the Blue-White scrimmage, which left several players drenched in sweat, Jay Wright introduced the special musical guest for the evening, the New-York-born rapper Shawn Mims.

Mims performed a few songs, including his #1 hit "This is Why I'm Hot," much to the delight of the now-raucous crowd. Full video of Mims's 7-minute performance is available on YouTube.

Mims's dramatic exit to the Northeast corner of the Pavilion signaled the end of Hoops Mania.

As I made my way out of the East seats, I noticed that the commentator Bill Raftery was standing a few feet away. I said hello to Raftery, then jokingly asked him if he now regrets his on-air defense of Allan Ray's dubious traveling violation during the waning moments of the CBS broadcast of the 2005 Sweet-Sixteen NCAA Tournament game against the eventual champion UNC.

"I regret nothing," said Raftery. "But what a night to bring it up," he added, referring to the ongoing Villanova love-fest at the Pavilion.

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At 9:11 AM, October 29, 2007, Blogger greyCat said...

Very nice job Pete. You included some details that I had not read elsewhere. The Fisher-Lowry comparison has been made by others. While initially references were mostly to their striking physical similarity, more recent references have used their first step and quickness as points of comparison. As the team comes together I suspect they will be a lot of fun to watch.

At 10:44 AM, October 29, 2007, Blogger Pete said...

Thanks greycat, It's scary how much Fisher's game reminds me of Lowry... If this team stays together for a few years it has the chance to do some major damage in the tournament.

At 11:14 AM, October 29, 2007, Anonymous TWODECKS said...


At 2:05 PM, October 29, 2007, Anonymous UniWatch said...

That's the first I've seen of the new unis...thanks for the shots

At 2:11 PM, October 29, 2007, Blogger Pete said...

Haha yeah I forgot to mention the slick new uniforms!

At 4:36 PM, October 30, 2007, Anonymous Gregg said...

That microphone broadcast was another great aspect of the show. I've never witnessed a game where you could hear the commentators while actually attending the game.

At 2:08 PM, November 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

#44 is Russell Wooten. I suspect he is only on the practice team, so he won't be on the official roster.

At 7:22 PM, November 01, 2007, Blogger By-the-Sea said...

Saw 'Nova lost the recruiting battle for the Morris twins today. They chose Kansas - good school / good program - good luck to them.

I'm sure Coach Wright is working on frontcourt recruiting. He's obviously had more success recruiting in the backcourt thus far.

Thanks for the article. Sounds like we look good this year. Let's look for a strong tourney showing.

At 9:43 PM, November 01, 2007, Blogger Dave said...

Yeah, the Morris twins are out, but Tyreke Evans is still in the race, and seeing as this was his last visit, as long as he was impressed he could be a Wildcat by the 12th (his decision date). Still, Jay Wright needs to find some way to get some big forwards.

At 10:55 AM, November 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 2:07 AM, November 06, 2007, Blogger Pete said...

Rick Business! That guy sure gets the job done.


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