Loading Villanova basketball news...

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.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

24 October 2007

Lowry nets game-winner and triple-double for Grizzlies

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
10/24/2007 10:43:00 AM
Kyle Lowry, one of the best guards to ever play for Villanova University, is back in action with the Memphis Grizzlies in preseason NBA play.

Lowry scored 21 points, including the game-winning tip-in, to beat the Houston Rockets 109-107 in double-overtime. He added 12 assists, 11 rebounds, and 2 steals in a dominating performance, notching Memphis's first triple-double of the pre-season.

After showing sparks of brilliant play that had him in the early 2006 rookie-of-the-year conversation, Lowry missed 72 games last season with a broken left wrist.

Update: Video of the amazing finish is available at NBA.com, where Lowry was awarded the play of the day.

Labels: , ,

22 October 2007

"Hoops Mania" tips off Friday

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
10/22/2007 01:43:00 PM
Villanova fans will celebrate the upcoming basketball season this Friday at "Hoops Mania," the annual pep rally on campus at the Pavilion.

The free event, which seems to start earlier in the day each year, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m, and fans should arrive early to ensure admission, which is on a first-come, first-served basis. Last year's Hoops Mania proved so popular that fans were refused admittance well before the scheduled start of festivities.

In addition to the "games," "prizes," and "surprises," promised by the promotional poster, this year's mania will feature the annual Blue vs. White intra-squad scrimmage. In previous years, this scrimmage was sometimes held the morning of the homecoming football game. Fans who didn't travel to Canada last month will get their first look at the much-hyped freshman players: Corey Fisher, All-American Corey Stokes, Malcolm Grant, and redshirts Antonio Pena and Andrew Ott will make their Pavilion debut in the fun-filled, alley-oop-heavy exhibition.

Hoops Mania has been held in roughly its current incarnation since the beginning of the Jay Wright era in the fall of 2001, when fans excitedly chanted "horror, horror" in an effort to woo the highly touted Amityville, N.Y. prospect Jason Fraser, who was rumored to be in attendance.

Last year's festivities included a surprise visit by rapper 50 Cent, who delighted the packed house with an impromptu performance.

Though the details of the night's "surprises" are as yet unknown, Hoops Mania usually includes at least one celebrity guest to complement the spectacle of Jay Wright's traditionally spectacular entrance with his team.

How Wright will "top" his previous entrances, which have included riding onto the court in a stretch Hummer limousine, is the subject of rampant speculation leading up to the event.

Labels: , , , , , ,

17 October 2007

Six Wachovia tickets now on sale

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
10/17/2007 04:45:00 PM
Villanova fans can now purchase tickets to six home games at the Wachovia Center this season.

Tickets for the game against LSU in Big East/SEC Invitational on Dec. 6 are available from Comcast Tix.

Prices range from $25-$60, depending on seating, and Comcast Tix is still charging a ridiculous set of fees for even the $25 purchase: A minimum of $12.90 for the cheapest seats, including $6.90 in unspecified "fee(s)," an equally preposterous $3.50 "order charge" on top of that, and most ludicrous of all, a $2.50 charge for you to print the tickets out on your own printer. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only ticket option for this game.

The extremely popular "Wach-Pack" of five game tickets is also back for 2007-2008. Fans can purchase seats at the following games for as low as $100 for the pack:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007 @ 7:00pm vs BLOOMSBURG
Saturday, January 26, 2008 @ 12:00PM vs NOTRE DAME
Saturday, February 2, 2008 @ 12:00PM vs SYRACUSE
Saturday, February 23, 2008 @ 12:00PM vs CONNECTICUT
Monday, February 25, 2008 @ 7:00PM vs MARQUETTE

The Bloomsburg game is an exhibition, and tips off less than three weeks from today.

Fans can buy the tickets by visiting the Comcast Tix pre-sales page and entering in the pre-sale code: wildcats.

Alternately, the Wach-Pack is available from the regular Comcast Tix site, starting October 19. Either way, the Comcast Tix fees total $26.00 for the cheapest option, or more than the price of any individual game in the package.

Despite the outrageous fees, the Wachovia games are the best chance for a Wildcats fan sans Pavilion season-tickets to see the team play this year.

With the 'Cats expected to contend for the NCAA Tournament with an exciting corps of young guards, the tickets may be a bargain after all.

Labels: , ,

Doug West joins coaching staff

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
10/17/2007 04:25:00 PM
Doug West will return to Villanova as an assistant basketball coach next season, the university announced this month.

West starred for the Wildcats from 1985-1989, and led the 'Cats to an Elite Eight trip in 1988. West is also in fourth-place on the all-time Wildcats scoring record book, with 2,037 points.

After graduating in 1989, West was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves and played nine seasons in the NBA.

West spent last season as an assistant coach for the Duquesne women's basketball team in Pittsburgh.

West said he was excited about the chance to join the Villanova coaching staff:

It's something I have thought about for a long time. I have watched this team up close and from afar. I bleed blue and white and this is a chance for me to contribute in another way. I am very happy to be here.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright praised West's experience and background:

We are thrilled to have another member of the Villanova basketball alumni family join our staff. Doug is a great addition to our staff because of his experience in the NBA and, most importantly, for the pride he takes in being a part of the Villanova basketball program.

Villanova's unusual connection with the state of Minnesota continues: West, a former Timberwolf himself, replaces former assistant and 1985-title star Ed Pinckney, who left Jay Wright's bench this fall for an assistant coaching position on the Timberwolves.

Pinckney will once again coach former Villanova star Randy Foye, a starting guard for the Timberwolves.

Howard Porter, the former Villanova great, was also found murdered in Minneapolis this spring. Porter had been working in Minnesota as a parole officer.

Labels: , , , , ,