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‘Krazy in the Kennel' kicked off the 2002-2003 men's basketball season with a bang, or should I say, an eye-high-at-the-rim, one handed jam by Erroll Knight?! No seat was left untaken for this afternoon of Gonzaga basketball festivities. Fans were given all they wanted and left with anticipation for the upcoming season.
The day was kicked off by a highlight video of memorable moments from last season. (I admit that I cringed when the footage of the Wyoming game was shown!) After the Gonzaga dance team and cheerleaders performed, fans received a videotaped message from Dan Dickau wishing "all the guys" good luck, for the Kennel Club to keep it crazy, and for Coach Few to not "get on them (the team) too hard."
After player introductions and an informal dunking exhibition, which included dunks that were, literally, off the wall, a game-like scrimmage began. The White team coached by assistant Bill Grier consisted of Josh Reisman, Colin Floyd, Dustin Villepigue, Erroll Knight (who wasn't able to participate due to an injured hand), Ronny Turiaf, Blake Stepp, Tony Skinner, and Richard Fox. The Blue team coached by assistant Leon Rice included Winston Brooks, Zach Gourde, Cory Violette, Kyle Bankhead, Brian Michaelson, Tyler Amaya, and Sean Mallon. The veteran players lived up to expectations while the newcomers proved they can contribute as well.
The game started off with Blake draining a three with Winston in his face. Kyle countered that by hitting three three-pointers nearly all in a row. Kyle has definitely improved showing more confidence and leadership. Ronny seemed stronger in the paint than last year and had a much sweeter touch. He made several turn-around jumpers and even made a very pretty three. I believe he could be more of an offensive force this year than last. Cory was simply impossible to stop. He is equally effective facing the basket or posting up. Zach showed off his sweet touch, crafty moves and even had a break away dunk over Tony Skinner! His free-throw shooting seems to have improved. The Mount Vernon boys, Tyler Amaya and Josh Reisman, were pleasant surprises. Tyler did not score much, but played great defense, rebounded well, and went after loose balls. Josh seemed very comfortable running the offense and used his athleticism to contain Winston. Tony Skinner appeared as advertised; an athletic hustler similar to Anthony Reason. Tony seemed tentative shooting, perhaps because of playing in a new system and in front of a new crowd.
The big question mark in this year's team is who will fill Dickau's position. The top two candidates, Blake and Winston, were out to prove they are the one. Winston impressed me as our man. He is still an amazing defender, but he is now more of an offensive threat. He drained threes, made no-look passes, and used his quickness to leave defenders behind. He showed great leadership on the court, which is a must in a point guard. Blake was most impressive when Josh took over at point and Blake moved over to the two-guard. He made several deep three pointers and seemed to be more comfortable at that position.
The Blue team was the victor, 72-65. It was an impressive battle, especially those in the paint. The White team pulled to within three points with four minutes to go, but that was as close as it would get.
The exhibition ended with Head Coach Mark Few thanking the crowd for their support and calling The Kennel "the toughest place to play in America."