McKale Madness a fun night

The Arizona men's basketball season officially began with McKale Madness. The event used to be known as Midnight Madness, but the NCAA passed a rule allowing the event to start at 9:00, thus the new name. It was a fun night for the players and fans alike as an awe-inspiring crowd showed to support the Cats.

Fox Sports' John Salley began the night by calling the Arizona Wildcats the "2005-2006 National Champions." That may seem like a trivial note but the last time Salley hosted a Midnight Madness event, he was at UConn. At that time he called them the ‘National Champions'. Sure enough, they went on to win it all.

After an autograph session and a few fans contests, it was the player introductions. Each player was called in order of their class, all of them coming out dancing and cheering. Kirk Walters stole the show during the introductions by first attempting an ill-fated cartwheel that resulted in a fall. Walters then showed some impressive dance moves by doing the ‘worm'.

Each player had his own music and his own routine.

"We want it to be a fun night," Head Coach Lute Olson said. "That's what the fans come for, and the guys have a lot of fun with it, and I think it's good for the fans to see the kind of personalities they have. They have a lot of fun together. You can tell."

Then it was the seniors turn. Last year, it began with a video of the seniors climbing into a limo this year it was a bright yellow Hummer that the seniors climbed into. As the Hummer was seen driving on the giant screen, an actual Hummer drove into McKale Center approaching the floor. The players came out one by one, and the team officially began practice.

"Well they had a lot of fun and that's the purpose of Midnight Madness," Olson says. "It's not about being very serious."

Olson later appeared sporting a blazer, button down shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots. A look not often seen by Olson in his career.

A shootout competition propelled the activities and the pairing of Fox and Daniel Dillion won the competition defeating Ivan Radenovic and Rodgers, Mustafa Shakur and Marcus Williams, and a pair of fans who participated in earlier activities.

The highlight of the night came with the slam dunk competition. There were five judges including John Salley, and senior volleyball players Jennifer Abernathy and Kim Glass.

The dunk contest was a chance for the players to show off some incredible skill. To nobody's surprise Adams won the competition .

For the second time in the night, Walters stole the show. During one portion of the dunk contest, the players attempted to recreate past dunks by former players. Walters was given the task of imitating a player (strongly reminiscent of Salley, though nobody can be sure) who misses a dunk badly before injuring his back.

The first time around Walters made a lay-up but on his second attempt he imitated the play perfectly including bending over and grabbing his lower back. The crowd went berserk over the play, and Walters clearly won over the crowd.

"The players get excited when they see the kind of response they get," said Olson.

Lastly, the team played a 20 minute scrimmage with the upperclassmen taking on the underclassmen. The upperclassmen won by a score of 52-45. The leading scorers for the underclassmen were freshman Marcus Williams with 18 points and Daniel Dillon with 10. For the upperclassmen, three players shined. Shakur and Jesus Verdejo tallied 15 points a piece, and Adams contributed 10 of his own.

"I didn't think the older guys did a real good job of spreading the ball around," Olson explained.

Following the game Olson was incredibly optimistic despite seeing some things he did not like.

"Starting out they didn't shoot the ball well when they got going full-court, but warmed up after that," said Olson. "It'll look a whole lot different by the time we get to the red-blue game. The young guys couldn't get back defensively and things like that. Things you expect from younger guys, but it was good to see Mustafa and Hassan hit some threes. I think you can see why we're excited about Marcus Williams' ability. I thought J.P. Prince passed the ball really well for the younger guys."

With the earlier start time the crowd was larger than normal.

"Great crowd," Olson added. "It was good to see that. A lot of those people showed up early for the volleyball team."

While Midnight Madness marks the official start of the practice season, it also marks the end of all fun and games.

"It'll be all serious," guaranteed Olson. "By the time they crawl out of practice, they'll know the practice season's started."

The highlights of the festivities can be seen on an upcoming episode of The Best Damn Sports Show Period on Fox Sports Net.


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