October 17, 2008

Mackey Madness dubbed a success

If immediate reaction is any indication, Mackey Madness is here to stay.

In front of an estimated crowd of about 9,000, Purdue's men's and women's basketball teams - on the heels of the Boilermaker volleyball team's dramatic five-game win over Wisconsin - opened preseason practice at the free event.

"I thought it was a great crowd," men's coach Matt Painter said. "I thought the fans did a great job helping Coach (Dave) Shondell's team, and we put a lot of fannies in the seats that could help them get a victory in volleyball, which was the most important part of the night."

Painter acknowledged some of the difficulties with drawing a full house, considering the football's team away this weekend and there were several high school football games in town Friday night, including the well-attended matchup between unbeatens West Lafayette and Sheridan. (West Side won, 37-7.)

"So to get this kind of turnout was great," Painter said, "and hopefully we can build on it."

After the volleyball match, both basketball teams took part in a joint dance routine.

"I'm still here, I guess," joked Robbie Hummel, about how he performed. "I don't know how that came about. They just said, 'You're gonna dance.'"

Afterwards, both teams were introduced player-by-player, each followed by a spotlight as they descended Mackey's stairs down to Keady Court.

Chris Reid scored some laughs during his intro, wearing a sleeveless American flag button-down shirt, an Afro wig and shorts so snug they'd have made the volleyball players just done competing wince.

The event was unofficially themed, "Mission Possible," in reference to both teams' hopes for Big Ten championships.

After the introductions came the three-point shootout and dunk competition.

JaJuan Johnson said he was just "messing around" with teammate Lewis Jackson Thursday night when he devised the dunk that won him Purdue's slam-dunk competition.

"I got like the third time I tried it," Johnson said, "so I knew I could do it."

Johnson stepped into the Paint Crew seating area, placing a foot on the railing, then threw the ball up so that it would take a healthy bounce off the floor around the hoop. He then jumped off the rail, took the bouncing ball with one hand and slammed it viciously.

He needed such a performance to beat Chris Kramer, who threw down a mean-spirited two-handed reverse.

The event, though, may be remembered more for misses than makes, as participants went for higher degree-of-difficulty dunks, playing to the crowd.

The 5-9 Jackson, an instant crowd favorite, never even got one down in the preliminary round, attempting to bounce the ball high off the backboard and hammer it home.

Classmate John Hart didn't make a dunk, either, as he tried to jump over Bobby Riddell on his last try.

E'Twaun Moore, who tried to jump over Keaton Grant, who bounced the ball in the air for him, didn't fare much better. He tried having Jackson throwing the ball off the side of the backboard for him to come in and dunk.

It didn't work.

Painter joked while thanking the crowd, "I promise you we will play better (this season) than we dunked tonight."

"We're fine on dunks when we keep it simple," Painter later said, "but with the creativity, they need to understand that if you want to win a dunk contest, you've got to make your dunks, not be creative."

Grant showed some clutch shooting in the three-point contest.

The competition paired men's and women's players in teams of two, with the Grant-Jodi Howell team facing Hummel and FahKara Malone in the finals.

The fastest team to see each its members make a three-pointer from five different spots around the arc won.

After Howell shot, Grant needed just six strokes to knock down his five.

"No pressure, no pressure at all," Grant said. "It was just like we were shooting with no one else out here."

While the players and coaches enjoyed Mackey Madness, the fun's over now.

Practice, for the men, starts Saturday at 12:30 p.m., amidst Purdue's clinic for high school and college coaches, which is expected to grow exponentially this year.

"The fun's out of the way," Grant said. "It's time to get down to business."

Purdue announced during the festivities that former Boilermaker Brian Cardinal and his wife, Danielle, have donated $250,000 toward the Mackey Arena renovation project. The facility's new practice court will be named "Cardinal Court."

Men's walk-on big man Garrett Mocas is no longer with the team, leaving the team in order to focus on his academics.




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