With it being right in the middle of college football season, it might be hard for many schools and their fan bases to start looking forward to the upcoming basketball season. For the True Blue Nation of the University of Memphis, basketball season can't get here soon enough.
The fans made that abundantly clear this past Friday (Oct. 12), as they packed the FedExForum for Memphis Madness. And even though this event is nothing more than a large scale pep rally, it gave many their first glimpse at the potential of Memphis' mens basketball team.
The night got started off with the introductions of former Tiger basketball alumni, with names such as Cedric Henderson, Elliot Perry, Andre Turner, Vincent Askew, Jeremy Hunt, and of course, Penny Hardaway. Even Keith Lee, the Tigers' all-time leading scorer, made an appearance, which further excited the nearly 20,000 people that filled the stands.
The rest of the night included the introduction of the 2012-13 roster as the players made their way down to the court. Once everyone had his moment under the lights, a three-point shooting competition got underway.
Antonio Barton looked to defend his title from last season and scored 14 of a total 30 points in the contest. Joe Jackson also scored 14 points, but the surprise winner turned out to be Adonis Thomas, who scored 17. It appears as if Thomas has put in some work on his long range shooting this off-season and that is something Coach Josh Pastner had to be happy to see.
The always entertaining dunk contest was up next. Incoming freshman Shaq Goodwin and returning starter Tarik Black got things under way with a few slams, but this contest belonged to D.J. Stephens from the outset.
Stephens appeared to be the definition of hops, as he seemed to fly effortlessly through the air. During his first dunk, he took off near the free throw line, catching a lob while soaring over two of his fellow team mates and slamming it home authoritatively with two hands.
This sent the crowd into a frenzy. His second dunk turned up the burners on pandemonium. Stephens had Goodwin go up for a routine lay-up, and as the ball fell down through the net, a trailing Stephens caught it in air, put in through his legs, and again slammed it with power.
Stephens' third attempt wasn't as awe inspiring. Still, he captured the dunk contest crown.
After the dunk contest, the festivities concluded for the evening and the excited fans poured out of the FedExForum looking forward to what this year could bring for the Tigers.
Madness and success each have the same number of letters, but a party in October isn't as fun as a party in April. The True Blue Nation is ready to see if the Tigers can cruise through C-USA this year, and more importantly, make a deep run into the NCAA tournament.
Can Memphis live up to the hype?