Game Night Recap

The Iowa basketball season officially kicked off at 12:01 Saturday morning at "Game Night," Iowa's third annual such event. The Hawkeyes entertained the crowd, and even the coaches got into the act. In the end, it was very clear that EVERYBODY is ready for this season to begin!!!!

First of all, the whole evening was tremendously entertaining. It was obviously geared towards the students, as plenty of intramural stuff went on before the festivities. And the students showed up en masse, which was great to see.

The coaches and students first squared off on a 3-point shooting contest. In the format for this contest, there were 3 players on a side, each who had 4 balls to shoot (Why not 5? Why no money ball? These questions have no correct answer). The students went first and hit 8 of the 12 shots. Not bad. Then it was Alford, Sam Alford, and Rich Walker. Walker missed the first 3, then hit his last shot. Steve stepped up and blew his first shot, which meant that he and his dad had to hit their last 7 shots to just tie. Alford calmly nailed his last three, leaving Sam to save the day. And that he did, burying them all in dramatic fashion.

The uncomfortably instense 3-on-3 game between the coaches and student intramural champions came next. Everyone had been talking about how competitive Alford is, and how he takes charge. Alford wasn't even the most competitive guy on his team, as Brian Jones, a Craig Kilborn lookalike, was frustrated the entire game by a scrappy (in basketball terms, scrappy is just a nice way of saying they foul a whole lot) defender, and his body language clearly reflected it. The crowd was getting a kick of his reactions after drawing a foul. He only shook one hand at the end of the game (which the coaches won, 22-10, as Alford went nuts from downtown in the 2nd half. Always a slave to tradition, that Steve guy), then just walked away. Not exactly classy, but good for a kick.

There were some festivites and formalities after that, including a bizarrely awful magician's show in which the only schtick that worked well for the duo was the lady's ever-changing outfit, which could turn from a green skirt to a red dress in a matter of about a second. Finally, the team took the court amidst a rather entertaining fireworks show. They were in a huddle, and as near as anybody could tell, they were in a huddle with (this is not a typo) Rod Thompson leading the vocal charge from the middle. It's good to see that although he probably won't be getting many minutes, he is still being a leader for the team.

Then the dunk contest started. First of all, there were far, far, far too many misses. Granted, some of these kids are just 18, and even guys at the pro dunk contests miss some dunks too. Another bad point was that while Chauncey Leslie participated, Reggie did not. The crowd was waiting for him to come in and rip down the rim and wear it as a necklace, but alas, it was not to be.

Some memorable dunks, in no particular order, were as follows:

1: Luke Recker, First Round: Luke drove baseline, flipped the ball behind his back, caught it, and delivered a terrific dunk. The dunk garnered the only perfect score of the first round.

2: Marcellus Sommerville, Second Round: 'Cellus brought Sean Sonderleiter out on a chair to about 3 feet from under the basket. Sean then flipped the ball up to 'Cellus as he jumped over him with a ferocious two-hand slam. The crowd was loving it.

3: Duez Henderson, Second Round: Duez lofted the ball up, then took off his jersey as he ran to get the ball, and MISSED THE DUNK. He didn't have a jersey to rip off for his next try, but luckily, he was wearing a beater. So sure enough, he did the same routine, taking off his beater as well, and made the dunk. The crowd went nuts.

4: Pierre Pierce, Second Round: Chauncey Leslie stepped up in front of Pierre and started driving to the hoop, as Pierre followed him. While on the dribble, Chauncey bounced the ball high, then ducked as Pierre jumped over him, took the ball, and nailed the dunk.

Marcellus and Pierre ended up going to the finals, where Pierre basically won by default after Sommerville couldn't make his dunks. It was a rather anti-climactic ending, but even just watching the players watching and reacting to the dunks was absolute comedy. They were obviously having a great time.

A few notes on the scrimmage:
Hogan's got a lot to learn about making smart decisions with the ball, and not a lot of time to learn it. It's tough watching him try to do more with the ball than he should. He still plays hard, though, and play like that a lot is much better than if he were just lazy on the court. Plus, hustle is infectious (as is laziness, unfortunately).

Erek Hansen is a force on the inside. Despite the fact that he's built like Niles Crane, he still disrupts shots, and recorded about two blocks on Reiner. He just might end up being too good to keep off the court.

Sean Sonderleiter and Jared Reiner are much bigger. They reportedly had great summers, but it didn't translate well on the court. Reiner still plays under the rim, and for someone who is almost 7 feet tall, that's horrible. His game is reminiscent of that of J.R. Koch during J.R.'s first year or two, seemed to be too tentative around the bucket. J.R. came around, and Jared most likely will too. Sean is working on his outside game, and he's got quite a bit of potential in that aspect.

At Media Day, Chauncey Leslie talked like he realized that his role was as a passer in Iowa's offense, and it showed Friday night. He made quite a few passes in traffic, and occasionally took it to the rack (which usually wasn't smart). He still pushes the ball like he's playing JUCO ball. Don't ever count on Iowa having a shot clock violation while Leslie's in the game. For that matter, don't count on it going below 10, either. Chauncey loves to run.

Pierre played well also. He was very confident with his shot, and although his defense didn't really raise any eyebrows, there weren't any glaring mistakes. At the press conference yesterday, Coach Alford noted that all three incoming freshmen were exceptional on defense, and that bodes well for players in his system.

As a team, shooting was poor. There were occasional stretches of two or three minutes that didn't see a single basket. That shouldn't always be the case, as Luke and Reggie will get many more looks than they did at Game Night. The event was a clear showing that confidence in the team is very high, and for good reason.

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