For a guy that didn’t seem thrilled about Friday’s midnight madness celebration, Kelvin Sampson sure had a hell of a lot of fun.
He came roaring out to a loud ovation — the last guy to take the court. Then his team did a routine with the cheerleaders. Tape of this activity should be used often by rival teams to ridicule the Hoosiers.
But then, Indiana got tough. They ran through a few drills that were more choreographed show than actual practice. There was the rebounding drill that led into a fast break. Then the one where players had to take a charge, dive for a ball on the ground and make a quick feed to a teammate. You had all the traits on display that Sampson wants his teams to have.
In the three-point shooting contest, Armon Bassett impressed in the first round with a 15. But Errek Suhr put the freshmen in his place by beating him 15-10 in the final round.
The dunk contest was notable for a bunch of misses and Sampson’s decision to come onto the floor and tell everyone he would vomit if his team continued looking so bad. Rod Wilmont and Xavier Keeling made it to the finals, but neither could manage a dunk nearly as cool as what A.J. Ratliff did when Sampson called him onto the floor.
As Ratliff held the ball near midcourt, D.J. White stood a few steps in front of the basket. Then he put his arm around Earl Calloway, and they began nuzzling. But then Keeling joined in othe ther side, and the three were hunched there. And wouldn’t you believe it: A.J. Ratliff ran up and jumped over the three of them! He launched up, and threw his legs out wide and slammed the ball.
Then Sampson answered the big question of the night, saying: “Let’s play some basketball.”
Team White, which consisted of Errek Suhr, Ben Allen, Earl Calloway, Lance Stemler and Mike White took on Team Red with D.J. White, Xavier Keeling, Joey Shaw, Rod Wilmont and Armon Bassett. A.J. Ratliff, Kyle Taber and Adam Ahlfeld didn’t play.
Bassett was again impressive, drilling three shots including a three-pointer to lead his team to a 15-13 win. He also made a daring long pass through the box to an open D.J. White, who was hacked hard. As he tried to pick himself off the ground the crowd went silent, remembering his two injuries last year. But he got up quick and was fine.
Did we learn much? No. But it got the blood flowing. Just like that basketball season arrived, swung right into full force on the strength of Gordon and the opening of practice converging.
Now, Sampson and his team will enter a quiet period. All his players have been able to talk about this year is how hard they worked in preseason workouts. He promised they’ll work harder in practice.
Practice begins at 3 p.m. today, a little over 12 hours from now, actually.
The football game is less than 10 hours away.
Guess I should get some sleep. Join us Saturday. We’ll talk more hoops, football and maybe even soccer.